TagCow is a company that I quite frankly never thought we’d hear from again. We first discovered them in March when they launched a product that tagged things in photos, seemingly by magic. If it was automated, they’d done something with computers that even Google still uses humans to do – recognize stuff in pictures.
Then it turned out that TagCow was using humans also, leveraging Amazon Mechanical Turk to get photos tagged for cheap (to their credit, they never said one way or the other). People were paid $0.04 to tag a group of five photos.
It turns out that model doesn’t work, either. Founder Michael Droz emailed today to say “After…tagging over a million images for free we looked at our balance sheet and realized it was make money or close up shop time.”
But they didn’t close up shop. Instead, they started pitching companies on a tagging service, and at least two have now signed deals: Art.com and AutoByTel. Both use TagCow to tag images, for a fee. The company says October was a profitable month for them based on these deals.
Any site which has a lot of images can potentially benefit from having more metadata about those photos. Search results will yield much better results (and the site is better optimized for search engines in general), and perhaps a sale will be made that otherwise wouldn’t be.
TagCow, which says it can tag a million photos a day, and is looking for more customers.
They also say they’ll keep their user-facing service but are now charging a fee.