Flickr Turns Up The Awesome On Image Search

Searching for photos on the Web takes way too much time. There are simply too many photos to sort through and not enough good ones. Image search is a major priority for all the big search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing), and they’ve all been tweaking their image search to make it better. But for the longest time, Flickr (which is owned by Yahoo, but separate from Yahoo Image Search) has been my default image search engine because that is where I can usually find the best photos.

Flickr’s been coasting. Its image search hasn’t been updated in a while—until today. But once again it has turned up the awesome on image search.

For the longest time, image search results on Flickr would be returned as a single column of fairly large images that you’d have to scroll down and tab through to get to more pages. You could filter the images by “recent,” “relevant,” or “interesting.” Now that scroll view is still available (it is called “detail”), but the default view shows small thumbnails scattered across the page. As you resize the browser window, you get more or fewer images automatically. You can also hover over an image for more information (such as number of views, comments, and faves, as well as tags, location, and date) without clicking through. (They should add licensing and copyright information as well). These new features help save time by giving you a better preview of each photo, similar to what Yahoo is doing with its main image search.

You can also view by medium-sized thumbnails and, my favorite, in slideshow mode, which takes over your whole screen and shows each image huge on a black background with a thumbnail navigation ribbon along the bottom. The slideshow view is much more immersive and feels more like a desktop photo app.

You can still sort by “recent” or “interesting” (“relevant” is no longer an option though). There is also a new drop-down menu that lets you search everyone’s photos, or only your photostream, that of your contacts, friends and family, or special collections such as Creative Commons images or Getty photos. Some of these options were only available in advanced search before. Again, this helps remove steps in the search process. All in all, I think Flickr just kept me from jumping ship.