Live From Google's Image Search Event

Today at a special press event in San Francisco, Google is showcasing some of the latest features that will be rolling out on its search engine. The event will be starting shortly, and from the decor it’s clear that the focus of the event will be Google Image Search. One announcement will almost certainly be a new look for Google Images, but we expect to hear much more. My live notes from the event are below; look for more posts calling out each major announcement.

Update: Here are the links for what Google had to say today:

Google Image Search: Over 10 Billion Images, 1 Billion Pageviews A Day

Google Unveils Image Search Ads — Your Ads Now With Picture Thumbnails

Google VP of Search Product and User Experience Marissa Mayer has taken the stage. She says that today is about Google Images. The site sees 1 billion page views every day. People come to the site for a multitude of reasons: they go to shop, to find out what something looks like, what the First Dog looks like. Education, coloring books. Entertainment.

Ben Ling, Director, Search Products has taken the stage. He says one of the site’s differnating factors is comprehensiveness. 250 million images when Image Search launched in beta in 2001. 10 billion images today. The fastest rising terms of 2010: Haiti, Kesha, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Avatar.

Nate Smith, Google Images PM, is on stage. Runs a query for “Beach”. Showing that you can jump between different types of images (clip art, line drawing, faces, etc.). ‘Find Similar Images’ lets you find images that are visually similar to a seed image. Showing using it to look at an eagle (and then similar looking eagles). Can search for leopard, see visually similar images, and also look at the content on the pages the images appear on to show related search.

Another feature that has proven popular: color search. If you run a search for ‘tulips’ and select the color pink, it will not just look for images that contain a lot of pink pixels, it looks for images in which the tulips themselves are ping.

One problem users have is they have to click an image, find one they might not like, hit “back”, go back to the list of images and repeat — it’s not very efficient. “That’s why we’re here today”. There’s still a lot of room for improvement. “Today we’re launching the largest redesign of Google Images since 2001”.

Results are now shown on the screen without text/links — it’s all images. It has better scrolling (images load dynamically as you keep scrolling down the page). You can get up to 1,000 images on one page. Second thing they’ve changed is that you get more information on the results page. Clicking an image gives a larger thumbnail preview, rather than opening it in a frame — this makes it easier to quickly browser through many images. The snippet accompanying each image is also more comprehensive.

What happens when you click through? First you see a big version of the image, with a preview of the website it came from in the background (no more annoying frame nested at the top of the browser).

Announcement for advertisers: Google Image Search Ads. A new ad product that allows you to run your own image as an ad on Image Search.

A: Ads will appear on the top, will have an image and ad text.

Q: Is there a fair use issue with showing full image instead of thumbnail?
A: We believe our implementation is within fair use. That said, when you look at the page, you do get webpage behind the image; you get both in a single view.

Q: Do you have estimate on percentage of queries that have commercial use (for ads)?
A: We see a lot of in entertainment, travel, retail. No number to announce.

A: It’s going out now, currently around 10%. Going out over the course of the week.

Q: How do ads show up/compete with organic search results?
A: They always show in the same place at the top of the page; they’re separated and clearly marked as sponsored links.

Q: Why now?
A: There have been ads before now, but they’ve generally been text based. Now we’re doing images.

Q: Do you see a pricing premium compared to a text ad?
A: We expect users to get higher value out of those ads, so we expect that there should be a premium over text ads.

A: For now this is just desktop. We’re launching on modern browsers first (Chrome, Safari, Firefox 3.0+, IE8 and 7).

A: There’s no tool to select time in image search now,but it will be coming.

A:. redesign has been very positive. Because of left hand nav bar many of our properties are now seeing increased volumes of searches.

Q: Images in search ads beyond image search?
A: Good suggestion, something we’ll explore.

Vertical Scroll Interface was hard to get right; had to do pagination to help make sure users knew where they were. Prefetching information about some images to make sure that page scrolling is consistent.

Q: Will the longer scrolling come to web search?
A: It’s interesting, it’s possible. Something to think about, but may be more difficult with web search than image search.

Regarding the frame at the top of the screen in the old version, Smith says that even in the original design docs nobody really liked the frame (they knew it wasn’t quite right). But it was very difficult to come up with a better solution.