The Best Image Search Online… and its Not Google!

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Being a serious blogger, I am forever looking on websites for that perfect relevant image that is worth a thousand words. So I thought I would give my two cents about the different options for finding images online.

Google Images: The big boy. And you would think they would be the best. However, they seem to be seriously ignoring not only the search relevancy, but also the usability of the search itself. It restricts you to searching just one page of 20 images at a time, and it lists stupid things like what website the image is from and the file size. Who really cares which website the image is on and how big it is when just want to search? The only extra functionality they offer is to show images by size using a drop down. In terms of the actual search results, its pretty abstract at times, and relies too much on what the creator has labeled the image. I think they realize this is a problem and are trying to rectify it by offering the Google image labeler, where users can label images for ‘fun’. Overall, very poor, and not what you would expect from the number one search destination.

Yahoo Images: Hmmm, wasn’t I just at Google’s image search? Wait a minute, it is actually Yahoo’s image search! Yes folks, Yahoo’s image search is pretty much a replica of Google Images. They have 20 results per page and offer the same meaningless labels, like Google has for each image, like website and size. The only reason why I slightly prefer Yahoo is they make great use of the public’s flikr photos (if people make them public). And that is a HUGE resource, great for finding people and landscape shots. But seriously Yahoo, come on, aren’t you trying to reclaim the crown from Google? Be different than Google and come up with a great image search… now is your chance!

Microsoft Live Images: Wow. What a breath of fresh air. When I went to this website, not only do they not include the useful label crap like Yahoo and Google add, but they have one HUGE advantage. Try scrolling down on their results, and well, it just keep scrolling! No need to keep pressing ‘next’ to see the next 20 images. Amazing idea, and truly great web usability. This makes it so much quicker and easier to search for images. They also have a popup rollover feature so you can see the image a bit larger. AND you can change the search grid size - you can see 10 images wide (that way you can see 100 small images per page!), or as big as 2 images wide. Great stuff! But it doesn’t stop there – you can even drag your favorite images to a ‘scratchpad’ on the right, so you can compare. Wow. They really have done an amazing job here – literally 100 times better than Google and Yahoo’s image search.

So there you go. Congratulations Microsoft for creating a great, easy to use image search. And come on Google and Yahoo, wake up and smell the image search coffee. You are supposed to the online leaders, not Microsoft!

And you know what else is funny? There are very few other websites even trying to get into online image search, which I find strange given so many web 2.0 companies appearing everywhere now. The only other one I found was, which was no better than Google or Yahoo and offered nothing new. Did I just hear someone say venture capital?

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  • Brian

    Very informative Rich! I agree with your sentiments and i want to add one more thing. When you use the Google image search and you find a good picture, but want to keep going, you have to remember the page number the picture was on. This gives MSN a major thumbs up like you said with their scratchpad technology. Yea MSN, Boo Google!

    BTW great blog!

  • Stimul8d

    You might also want to give Zemanta ( a mention. It is a FireFox plugin that integrates into WordPress (and a few others) and pulls appropriate images, tags and hyperlinks out for you so that they can be added to your blog with as little efffort as a mouse click.

    Also, You say that you need to keep clicking next on these websites (excluding M$ Live). Try installing PicLens( This is one of the most useful FireFox extentions your ever likely to use and completely negates the pagination of all these sites, displaying all of the images in a VERY unique, innovative and usable 3D gallery interface.

    Anywho, that’s my 2 penneth. Hope you get some use from them.

  • Boris

    Rich … Let me also chime in and pass along some kudos for a useful article. The main addition to your list that I’d suggest is Zuula’s image search function ( Zuula provides a simple way to get and review search results from numerous search engines, from top sites like Google and Yahoo, to lesser-known engines like Pixsy. And it provides this capability for image search as well as standard web search and several different other kinds of search. I think you’ll find it a useful blogger resource in general, in addition to being a useful tool for image search.

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  • IgnoranceMustBeBliss

    Love the info about Microsoft’s image search. I do not see why you hate the file size, as that can be a serious consideration on a mobile device when all you have is 3G. And knowing the website address helps you weed out sites that will not have what you’re looking for – not to mention fake sites created from your search. But I guess for some people ignorance is bliss