It looks as though Google has quietly removed yet another search tool from its menus. This time it is “Sites with images”, which used to be under “Search tools”, “All results”. Like translated foreign pages I suspect it has been dropped because of low usage. I used it about once or twice a month, usually to identify a building or a landmark that I had seen whilst out and about and to find further information on the subject. I would put in a description, run the search and then apply sites with images. The results gave the usual extracts from web pages together with thumbnails of the images on those pages. It was very quick and easy to use and more reliable than the two alternative strategies.

The first option is just to run the search in images, but because I’m often looking for something along the lines of ‘hotel between Windsor and Maidenhead Thames’ there can be a significant amount of noise in the results. Also, that approach often pulls up Flickr photos, which can sometimes tell me the name of the place, but does not always provide the more in depth information I require.

The second option is to use Google’s search by image option. This enables you to upload a photo, or point to the URL of an image on the web, and look for similar images. The option can be found by clicking on the camera in the search box on the Google images search page.

Google search by image

You are then given the option to point to the URL of an existing image on the web or upload your own. This is not much help if I haven’t taken a photo of the subject, and if I had a URL I probably would not be trying to identify it. There is also the problem that if Google does not find many exact matches it looks for “visually similar” images that have similar patterns, shapes and combination of colours but which may be of a completely different subject. In the example below I uploaded my own photo and Google has found the exact copy that I had previously uploaded to Flickr. None of the visually similar images are photos of the building I am interested in.

Google visually similar images

I’m disappointed but not surprised that Google has discontinued sites with images. My money had been on one of the other search tools going before this one. As with the disappearance of translated foreign pages I can live without it, but it means I have to spend more time and effort on finding the information.¬†At this rate there won’t be many search tools left on Google so it makes even more sense to become familiar with the alternatives.

Cue a blatant plug for my forthcoming workshop “Anything but Google”! It is being organised by UKeiG on the 27th June in Newcastle. Further details are on the UKeiG web site at http://www.ukeig.org.uk/trainingevent/anything-google-karen-blakeman

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