More on reverse search

Some time ago I wrote about TinEye, a very useful little program that “reverse searches” the web for images. Particularly useful for two things: One, when you want to find the source of an image you’ve found and want to use, so as to obtain the right permission. Two, when you have a “free-to-air” image, but would like it in a higher resolution. [A third use has been suggested, where the input image is of you or someone you are close to, and the object is to see who else is using that image and in what context. I’m not the paranoid type, so that use hadn’t occurred to me.]

When it comes to music, Shazam has been doing something similar for many years now, and, if reports are to be believed, is poised to become one of the iPhone’s most popular apps. Shazam is also really good.

As far as text was concerned, I thought that Google was enough. Then someone sent me a link to CopyGator, and I’m still playing with it. Figuring out what I get that I don’t get from Google. My jury’s out at present. CopyGator can and will get better, but there’s bound to be competition. Watch this space.

[Incidentally, I still don’t understand why Google Search is separate from Google Blog Search. Do people really think the blogosphere is distinct and separate from the Web? I can understand if Blog Search is a narrow and specific search, say like Twitter Search. But I would still expect blog search results to be included in the main search.]

As Kevin Kelly put it, the internet is a great big copy machine, enabling the persistence of information. When you add search to persistence, it becomes very powerful. When you add reverse search, it becomes even more powerful. [Incidentally, this is why I argue that the Dunbar Number has increased. First we had oral communication. Then we had written communication. Then we had print. And then the internet. But we have gone beyond persistence into searchable retrievable archived communications, and this makes a big difference. Not everyone agrees, many have written in to point out that the number is calculated on physical neurocranial volume or some such. What I remember of the research suggests that the evolution of communication also played a part.]

My last post, about Joi Ito’s session at DLD, elicited a number of comments, including some from Joi himself. Joi visualises a world where every digital object attached to the web is associated with information about its formation and ownership. It is only a matter of time before we have powerful reverse search engines that seek out copies of digital objects as a means of rights enforcement. That is fine. What is not fine is when the search engines become judge and jury as to whether a work is derivative or not. If we allow that to happen, then it’s a case of Diabolus Ex Machina.

3 thoughts on “More on reverse search”

  1. I keep looking for a reverse audio search, but all I ever find is Shazam, which is useless for someone who does not have access to a smartphone and never will.

    I have tried all sorts of MIDI-based search engines, with spectacular failure. Even the best fail to recognize even common melodies.

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