July 22, 2010

Google Revamps Image Search

Search giant Google announced a major revamp of its image search business as it revealed that area of its search service is getting a billion page views every day.

Google image search now has more than 10 billion pictures, compared to the 250 million it had when it launched in 2001.

"This represents the largest image search engine by far," said Marissa Mayer, vice president of Google search.

"I have been watching image search grow and grow for the last nine years since its launch. This is a tremendous rise and shows how the web overall has gotten richer and richer with all kinds of media," she told BBC News.

Google said the update will represent "a nicer way to surf the visual web."

Product manager Nate Smith said that for many searches, we realized "the best answer wasn't text - it was an image or a set of images." He added that the "quantity and variety of images on the web has ballooned since 2001, and images have become one of the most popular types of content people search for."

The new image search look is designed to be "more intuitive and get the user to the answer a lot quicker," said Mayer.

To that end, Google can put up to 1000 images on a page to allow the user to scroll through them without having to click in and out of pages.

Google has also built in a new thumbnail preview that pops up when you hover over a certain image providing relevant info like website addresses or image details.

The new features are already offered by Microsoft's Bing search engine.

"Some of the new features are"¦. borrowed from Microsoft's third-place Bing search engine, which has endeavored to out-innovate Google search ever since its May 2009 debut," said Jeff Bertolluci of PC World.

Mayer denied that Google had been influenced by the rival search engine.

"We have taken all our inspiration from our users and looked at how many images they like to look at and how they interact with those results. Our advances are based on studying our users over the years," she said.

The page layout has also changed into what has been described as a "dense tiled layout" to allow users to look at a lot of images at one time. Keyboard shortcuts can be used for faster scrolling and a new landing page displays a large image in context with the website where it is hosted visible right behind it.

Google also stepped up things for advertisers by allowing them to insert an image into their text advertisements.

The new format will only appear on Google images for now. It is the latest move in a series of attempts to increase revenue. The new ads, called image search ads, are expected to sell for a premium over text-only versions.

"Some of the criticism historically about Google's text advertising has been that it doesn't have any emotional content. You can imagine a search for say the Eiffel Tower or Hawaii and seeing these beautiful images and the travel ads or discount flights associated with them could be quite successful," said Greg Sterling of industry news site SearchEngineLand.com.


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