Google just crippled image search, and people are angry

Google just made two big changes to image search, and you’re not going to like either of them.

In addition to killing off the “view image” button, the company has removed the ability to “search by image.”

The heartbreaking changes come after a complaint from Getty Images, which wants Google to make it harder for people to steal its photos.

Google image search is — or was — one of the greatest tools on the web. You can use it to find an image of almost anything. Until now, you could then save that image, or use it to find something similar. Not anymore.

Google stamps on image search

“Today we’re launching some changes on Google Images to help connect users and useful websites,” Google explains. “This will include removing the View Image button.”

Without the “view image” button, locating a decent image you might want to save becomes much more difficult. A new “visit” button will take you to the webpage where the image is located, but you won’t be immediately presented with the image in its original resolution.

If the site hosting the image you want has protections to prevent you from saving it, you’ll have to find what you’re looking for elsewhere. It’s likely the image you see on the site itself has been scaled down.

Google has also removed the “search by image” function, which helped you quickly find similar images. However, reverse image search from the Google search bar does still work as normal.

It’s Getty’s fault

“For those asking, yes, these changes came about in part due to our settlement with Getty Images this week,” Google adds.

Getty filed a complaint with the European Commission in 2016 because it was unhappy that Google image search made it easy for people to find and steal its photos without attribution. Getty confirmed a settlement with Google last week.

“Getty Images, a world leader in visual communication, and Google today announced an agreement that includes a multi-year global licensing partnership, enabling Google to use Getty Images’ content within its various products and services,” reads the announcement.

“This agreement between Getty Images and Google sets the stage for a very productive, collaborative relationship between our companies,” adds Getty CEO Dawn Airey. “We will licence our market leading content to Google, working closely with them to improve attribution of our contributors’ work and thereby growing the ecosystem.”

Quite rightly, most people are blaming Getty for the changes. Some believe Google should have just blocked Getty results from being displayed.

“This is a ridiculous inconvenience,” writes Jesse Levesque. “I’ve never wanted anything from getty images, and would happily see their results removed.”

“This is just giving [Getty] everything they want at the expense of the user,” adds Ariel Arjona. “I’d have been happy for example to opt out of seeing any Getty content in your search results in exchange for not losing functionality.”

Others argue that it’s still possible to locate the images that show up in image search, so the changes don’t really solve anything. They just make image search less useful than it was. Many point out that the “view image” option is still offered by Bing and Yahoo.

“I have never seen a company willingly self destruct this fast,” says Drago Katzov. “Congrats, you have reduced your functionality to the point where Bing is an actual competitor. In fact Bing Image is superior.”

Google image search will still be useful. Just nowhere near as useful as it was. Don’t like it? There’a already a petition you can sign.

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