TinEye and the New Firefox Plugin

Ever wonder where other copies of an image are on the web?

Ok, let me ask that another way: have you ever wondered where other copies of your images are on the web?

Enter TinEye – it’s like google image search, only backwards.  Or maybe “inside out” would be a better way to describe it.  TinEye roves the web making digital fingerprints of images it finds.  Then it allows you to feed it an image (either by URL or by upload) and tells you where other copies of that image are published on the web.  Even if they’ve been re-cropped, re-sized or photoshopped.  Important distinction: it doesn’t find images that are similar, at least in the human-brain-sense – an image has to be a direct digital descendant to be a match.  More info in their FAQ.

This is handy for those of you who are professional photographers and depend on people buying your images, rather than lifting them for commercial use.

My one complaint (well, ok, aside from the fact that the search engine doesn’t rate “sameness” the way your or my brain would) was that the process was a little cumbersome.  Until recently, you had to download the image (for upload to TinEye) or copy its exact URL (the image URL, not the page URL), and go to another browser window, sign in to TinEye (certain features require that you have an account), upload (or paste URL) then view results.  This only takes a few seconds, I’ll admit, but it really shouldn’t be that hard.

But things have changed – thanks to a new Firefox plugin (thanks, Lifehacker).  I gave it a try, not because I’m vain TinEye Screenshotenough to think that people are copying my images and using them all over the web (ok, I’ll admit, I was hoping I would find something, but oh, well), but because it’s just neat and I’m sure it will be useful at some point when I’m trying to find a photoshopped distortion of an iconic image.  Using this Google Images search, choosing this search result, right-clicking, and choosing “Search Image on TinEye,” I found a couple of fun permutations, some of which contained less than half of the original image.  Hint: if you want to find the most edited, distorted versions, try setting the Sort Order to “worst match.”

They also have a bookmarklet similar to TinyURL’s well-known one, that allows you to drag a URL over a button to search (only in some browsers – your mileage may vary).

Another caveat: TinEye claims they have indexed 1.215 billion images, which has to be an infinitesimally small portion of the intertubes.

Let’s see how long it takes the nice folks at Lifehacker to notice I stole their screenshot…

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