26 September 2008

Tineye for the Genealogy Guy (and Girl) [Site Review]


I was excited when I ran across a review for online photo search site Tineye, which purports to compare an uploaded or linked photo to millions of photos used on websites, and tell you where identical photos are used online. To be clear, Tineye searches out and finds the exact photo, not variations on photos, photos including the same person, same colors, etc. It finds the exact photo you are looking for.

The Game

I had the perfect application for this website, and had great hopes of resolving a bit of a longstanding mystery for me.

A few years ago, while researching one of my husband's ancestors --who was an architect in Philadelphia before the Civil War-- I downloaded and saved this photo of a church which he had a hand in designing:



Due to my terrible citation practices back then (which have only been mildly remedied to this day), I have NO idea where in the world this photo came from, or the context in which it was posted to the internet. As I've been slowly going back through folders of my research and trying to annotate what was not annotated, I've been dying to find the origin of this photo.

She Shoots

Using Tineye is extremely easy. The interface takes a page from Google, and keeps it straightforward and simple, giving you everything you need to use the service on the homepage:



You can either upload an image, or simply paste in a URL for the image you want to search for. Done and done.

She Fails

Unfortunately, my photo was not found...



According to the site, the problem is probably that the "search index is still very small—just a fraction of all the images on the web!" Which leads me to wonder how useful the service is at this point, and also when and how they plan on getting around to indexing a substantial percentage of the images on the web. The latter concern, however, is not addressed, except to note that they do take suggestions on sites to index. Which worries me in the brevity of its scope, but one must give these websites time to bloom properly, I suppose.

She Shoots Again, And Scores!

To be fair, I decided to give Tineye a shot to prove itself, using a photo that is perhaps slightly less esoteric in scope. To wit, here are the results for a search on a portrait of George Washington:



And another:



This time, success, and a shot to see what Tineye could really excel at, if the index ever grows. My first impression is that, surely, these portraits of our first President have been used more than 30 or so times across the entire web. Again, small index, small success.

Obviously, the site makes great sense for people like photographers and artists who wish to monitor usage of their work online. It also could be a great resource for genealogists looking for iterations of photos online. This would be a site to check back on in a few months, to see if the indexing issue has been addressed or resolved. Until then, its back to the search engine drawing board for finding photos online.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

You read Tamura Jones's review? She compared several picture search engines. She's not easily impressed, but she raved about TinEye.