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Integrating Flickr Into Yahoo Search

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Yahoo! Search Blog: Famous Landmarks Get the Flickr Treatment in Yahoo! Search The Yahoo Search Blog is reporting that Flickr has recently added thumbnails of Flickr images for popular domestic and international landmark searches into Yahoo Search.

Those of you who have read my blog for a while know that I’ve pretty much been calling for the integration of Flickr images into Yahoo Search since day one and I think this is another great step forward towards this.

The previous move by Yahoo in this direction took place about nine months ago when Yahoo tested the waters with this idea by introducing 5 search terms (and only 4 images of each) from Flickr into Yahoo Search.

And so today marks the first time that when you type "Golden Gate Bridge" into Yahoo search that you will see a Thomas Hawk image on the first page.

This move by Yahoo is just the beginning though. In Flickr Yahoo has the best image search technology on the internet right now. And so they’d be crazy not to leverage this advantage as much as possible into Yahoo’s search which is still the second player compared to market leader Google.

Remember folks, it was the search team that bought Flickr at Yahoo, not the photos division that was rumored to have passed on Flickr on the first go around — much to rumored inside political friction. Ironically now it’s Yahoo photos that is being consumed by Flickr in the end.

This move on Yahoo’s part though is a terribly smart one. While image search only represents about 9% of Google’s search traffic, by implementing Flickr images more forcefully into Yahoo’s image search they can point to a clear quality advantage over Google’s Image Search. What’s more, the world is increasingly becoming a visual place. And as Flickr images can actually make the jump out of image search and into text search (as is the naturally applicable case with the landmarks that represent a first step by Yahoo in this direction) this will serve Yahoo well.

The power of Flickr’s superior image search is actually fairly simple to understand. By leveraging the social network that sits inside of Flickr Yahoo can determine identification, relevancy and rank of images. It’s not difficult actually. Simply by analyzing the social activity around images Yahoo can with relative accuracy determine which are the best images of anything that happens to be tagged.

Meanwhile Google is taking a different strategy and earlier this week announced that they were redoing their Image Labeler game.

Google’s Image Labeler game is basically a game where two users in Google Image Search have a contest to see who can add the most descriptive tags to an image in their library. I’ve written about it in the past here: Google Image Labeler, Lame, Lame, Lame. The big advancement this week for Google Image Labeler? More points for more descriptive tags. Hold on while I quell the excitement over here.

Google is going about trying to compete in the image search game wrong. First of all, although Google Image Labeler is a way to get at what’s inside of a photo, it has no way to determine rank and relevancy. Most of the images in the Google Image Labeler are terrible. They are not the beautiful images that you get when you search inside of Flickr and sort by interestingness.

Of course the Image Labeler Game is interesting to the extent that it’s one of the few times that I’m aware of that Google is trying to harnass actuall human insight to enhance their search results rather than pure hot alogorithm. The problem is that this approach can’t touch Flickr and won’t get images near as great, relevant or beautiful in the end.

Tagging photos was the first step to increasing relevancy in image search, interestingness was the second step. The next step will belong to better categorization of the information that surrounds a photo to even enhance relevancy in search more. geotags, people tags, event tags, at Zooomr we are developing a whole new way to contain tags and organize them as containers. Ways to categorize tags will actually be widgetized and this will be a major breakthrough in the next stage of tagging. We are calling this new tag paradigm "info tags" and they will represent the next step forward in how photographs can be more effectively represented in image search going forward. Stay tuned for more on these.

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