There are all kinds of search engines out there that specialize in one specific area. Some of them are useful while others simply aren’t. One of those specialized search engines to add to the “useful” list is TinEye. It’s an image search engine which allows you to upload an image, or you can provide an image URL, and then it will tell you where the image appears on the web. It’s a brilliant idea, and TinEye does a great job despite the fact that it’s still in a private beta.

To give you an example of how this works, the video demo on TinEye’s site explains that they uploaded a picture of the Mona Lisa. You know, the popular portrait of a woman painted by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 16th century? Once they uploaded the photo, TinEye went to work using pattern recognition algorithms to find locations on the web where the image appears. A whole list of places the photo was used, appeared.

A more detailed explanation of how the service works is, “TinEye uses sophisticated pattern recognition algorithms to find your image on the web without the use of metadata or watermarks. TinEye instantly analyzes your query image to create a compact digital signature or ‘fingerprint’ for it. TinEye searches for your image on the web by comparing its fingerprint to the fingerprint of every single other image in the TinEye search index.”

tineye 1-1.png

TinEye has tried to make it as easy as possible for people to use the service. They’ve come up with a Firefox Extension so that all you have to do is right-click on an image anywhere on the web in Firefox (e.g., a photo on eBay), and then you can search using TinEye. Now, not all pictures that it returns to you are exact replicas which is actually the cool part. TinEye is able to find variations and edits of the same photo. They have an index of 487 million images and they plan to add billions more in the future.

Not only is this service helpful for individuals (maybe graphic artists) trying to find where their work has been used without permission , it’s also helpful for companies. Digg is one company that already uses TinEye to help them identify duplicate story submissions that have an image. The only downside with the service at this point is that like many other new useful services out there, you need an invite to use it. TinEye says they’re currently at capacity but you can still request an invite and when they have more room for users, you’ll receive one. I don’t know about you, but to me this seems like a company that Google would snatch up in an instant!

You can sign-up to receive an invite here.

Source: Google Operating System