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January 28, 2013

New Google Image Search Interface

Long time, no see. After a long vacation, it's time to get back to the latest news from the Google world. Last month, Google tested a new image search interface and now it's been rolled out. It's the first desktop interface that drops the landing page and no longer loads the web pages that included the image results. The previous interfaces loaded these pages using iframes more like a courtesy to the third-party websites than to improve the user experience.

Google started to make the iframes less important when it moved them to the background. Then the mobile interfaces for smartphones and tablets came out and they didn't even load the original web pages. The new desktop interface is closer to the tablet interface: click an image result and use the left/right keyboard arrows to check the other results.

Here's the old interface (you may still see it):

"Instead of sending you over to a whole new page to preview an image, you'll see a preview of the image in your search results. Once you click on a image, you can quickly flip through the whole set of image previews using your keyboard. Your search results stay in the panel so you don't lose track of what you were doing; if you want to go back to looking at other search results, you can just scroll down and pick up right where you left off. If you want to check out the website where the image is hosted, you can click on the photo or use the tools available," explains Google.

Obviously, the traffic from Google Image Search will drop dramatically and webmasters will complain that Google uses their images and doesn't give anything in return. Google only hosts image thumbnails and loads the original images when you click the thumbnails, so it's now an image leecher that hotlinks to other people's images, using their bandwidth without generating page views or ad revenue. It's better for users, but expect to see many sites that stop displaying images when loaded from Google Image Search or use other anti-leech tricks.

Finding the right balance between user experience and webmasters' interests is a hard thing to do. Google now includes 4 links to the original web page, so you can click the image, the page title, the domain name and the "visit page" button, but I bet most people will click "view original image". Unfortunately, Google no longer displays two very important things: the image title and a short snippet from the page related to the image. Showing only the title of the page and the domain name is not enough to determine if the image is relevant. Other missing information: the EXIF data and the image size.


  1. It's nice to see you again here, Ionut. Keep up the good work!

  2. Speaking as a user, I have to say I love this change. I really hated having to visit all these strange websites just to see a full-sized version of the image I was looking at.

    And speaking as a webmaster, I don't really mind all that much whether users view images on my website or on Google images. That could be because my website doesn't really have a whole lot of photos on it though.

  3. Oh, you were on hols? I thought you had abandoned the blog! :-(

  4. To those want to find similar images, now you need to select the image, click on more sizes, then unfold the more sizes option in the Search Tools menu and select Visually Similar inside that menu option.
    Quite easy :-p

  5. I prefer the new interface as I find it easier to navigate to the results you require.
    Webmasters also need to make sure your alt title is meaningful!

  6. Welcome back. I have missed the updates.

  7. Alex, welcome back! You say the image size is missing but I see it when I hover over the search results and I also see it for the image I have selected. Perhaps they've tweaked the results since you published this post? Might be worth updating.

    1. I mean the file size: 2.3MB, 189KB. It matters, especially if you have a slow Internet connection or you want to download the image. Another annoyance: every time you click an image from the list of search results, Google downloads the original image, which could be quite big.

  8. From a user point of view, the feature very beneficial as it takes less time to load and does not consume the bandwidth.

    From a publisher of image point of view, it is very discouraging :(

  9. As the owner of a small photography site, I have to say this move is pretty much devastating. My page views (hence my income) are down by 50% and my bandwidth (hence my expenses) are up.

    So I guess I'll have to start thinking about coming up with a way to revamp my site to protect myself from Google - but even that will probably mean the end of the site because any efforts to protect myself from Google circumventing my site and handing my work up to the public (at my expense) will also mean that people will no longer be able to find my photos when doing a search.

    Just seems like this should be illegal to me. They are not providing a "search engine" they're providing a "skim engine" - and why are they targeting image publishers specifically? With other types of content Google lets you find the content but still sends you to the site to read the article or view the video.

    What's next? Will Google start extracting articles from sites and presenting them on their own pages? Why not intercept television signals and rebroadcast them (at the station's expense) without the ads?

    I'm afraid this move is going to put me, and a LOT of other image producers out of business. Sigh.

    1. Hi all, me same problem, I want to ask Google to remove this change, cause I cannot pay the cost of services, and also persons working, this means all users will not use images, cause many publishers will be obliged to remove the content.
      This change has no sense, cause is like to grab a content, and who did the content doesn't benefit of if; it has no sense.
      we all ask Google to reput as was before, cuase this means a big lose of content, cause many will not continue to pay band without a return.
      Please if in same situation write to google support to ask to put again as was it before this change.

    2. I noticed a drop in visits of about 25% in one day. I totally agree in what you wrote, Google is no longer a search engine, but a leecher. What can we do? We aren't big as France, which has obtained the result of 60M€ per year payment from Google to the publishers.

    3. A few days ago, we've implemented a smart hotlinking protection against Google that mimics the behavior of FansShare. So, if you got hit as well, here's a detailed description on how to get back your visitors for now:
      Good luck!

  10. As you can recall, the similar kind of stuff was done for content publishers wherein a snapshot of the content was displayed on the right handside frame.

  11. I hate how google left out the picture description. Finding an image isn't always about picture sometimes you have to read to make sure you have the right one. Now, I have to go to each website before finding the right picture vs before I could just read the descriptions and QUICKLY find the right site/image.

    I'm not saying the description is important in every search but it does happen enough to piss me off. I hope google switches back to way it was before.

  12. it has killed traffic of most of blogs. Google this is not just.


  13. So it is a federal crime to blur out a face,
    remove tats and add writing on a photo that may be used for an escort ad? You've got to be kidding. Then there are thousands of guilty parties out there if that is the

    affordable web hoting


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