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How Does Reverse Image Search Work?

For years, people have taken advantage of search engines. What started as a way to find websites evolved throughout the years and became commonplace. As things continued, search engines developed image searches. This allowed people to search for the images that they were interested in for a variety of reason. Businesses and personal reasons both existed to use image searches.

As technology has continued to advance further, the ability for algorithms to discover information from photos has increased. Programs are able to interpret information from a photo and develop a search string from the contents. That’s why the name of reverse image search is so perfect. Rather than entering a search phrase or string and getting a photo, you get the opposite.

What is the Process for Reverse Image Search?

The concept of reverse image search is pretty simple. You will upload a photo into the reverse image search (or even just a website url for many of the reverse searches out there) and in return, the search will return results.

The type of results will vary depending on the type of reverse image search used. Really, it depends on where you are using a reverse image search. The most common one currently is simply a reverse search that will bring up similar photos.

What is Reverse Image Search Used For?

As mentioned, there are different reasons that people may use a reverse image search. One reason that reverse image search can be so interesting is looking for “original” versions of photos. With the amount of photoshopping and editing of photos being done on the internet, many people don’t believe that a photo is real. Several of the reverse search engines will actually be able to find original versions.

In addition to personal use, the second major thing reverse image searches are used for is commerce. Americans love to shop and anything that makes that easier is going to be something that is sought after. Many major online companies allow a user to upload a photo and then will find products that are similar to what is in the photo. This can be great for people who are struggling to find that one thing they really want. This is especially true in the fashion and beauty sector.

The final reason many people may use reverse image search is to find unauthorized use of their intellectual property. Anyone with the rights to an image doesn’t want to see others using it illegally. Reverse image searching can determine when that is happening and how.

Popular Reverse Image Search Engines

There are many reverse searches out there. Some are from smaller companies which specialize in the technology, while others come from some of the internet behemoths. Here are some of the reverse search apps in use:

  • Google Images - It’s certainly not a surprise to see Google involved in anything online. Their reverse search runs right out of their basic image search engine and works to produce matching results. Unlike some others, it will also use the “metadata” that is embedded within the photo. This can make it easier to find similar items, but can also produce some surprising results.
  • Pixsy - Pixsy is one of the reverse image searches which works to protect original photo property. Once uploaded, a photo will automatically be searched on a regular basis and should something come up, the uploader will receive alerts. Pixsy even partners with law firms so that people can get compensation for the use of their property (for a nominal fee of course).
  • eBay - eBay has their “shopbot” tool which allows users to upload photos. Products within the photo can then be found on eBay. It’s great for obscure and unlabelled items.
  • Pinterest - Pinterest does two things with reverse image search. It finds similar products, but it also then attempts to extrapolate the taste of the person and offer them other suggestions they may enjoy. This is perfect for people with a good fashion sense.