A new image-based search engine called TinEye has recently been made available to the public, which may prove very useful to web authors, photographers and users of photo sharing sites such as Flickr. The search engine can trace the use of a single image across the internet even if it has been photoshopped.
TinEye promises to do for images what Google has done for text, making it easy to track down uses of your own images. This can help a professional photographer uncover copyright infringements or a Flickr / Picassa user track the popularity of their images around the internet.
With TinEye, you can also track down the origins of an image you find on the web, enabling you to learn more about the image such as the names of people in a photograph or the location of which a photo was taken. Tracking the source of an image can also prove useful when you need to provide attribution.
The search engine uses “sophisticated pattern recognition algorithms” which create a digital fingerprint for each image it indexes. This fingerprint can be used to identify matches even if the image has been watermarked, cropped or altered (see image below).
Unlike most other search engines, TinEye requires you to signup before you can use the service, but once you do, you can take advantage of the IE and FireFox plugin for right click searching of any image of interest.
TinEye is already a very useful tool, but is busily indexing hundreds of millions of pages per month to provide more comprehensive results.