Image search, or Everything is traceable now

TinEye is a service that flips around the normal image search process. Instead of using a word or a phrase, like fleem or crumhorn, to find a list of images, you use an image to fish for other images like it. This turns out to be particularly useful for answering the question “where did they steal that image from?” Rights-holders can use this technique to police their ownership of images, and anti-SOPA activists can use it to bust pro-SOPA politicians for stealing their Twitter background images.

Recently Matt told me that Google is in the game now, and their image search engine, through the magic of Google being Absolutely Huge, will probably crush TinEye in short order. At any rate, I was intrigued, and so later that day when I came across an interesting image in an article I was reading, I thought I’d try a little detective work.


Here’s the article: Branching and merging: the heart of version control. Don’t worry about the article itself. See that stock photograph of a highway interchange? It’s pretty cool. Where did it come from? Where is it in real life? In the Future, by which I mean now, we will be able to answer these questions with a few serene keystrokes. Watch this.

First, grab the URL for the image and do a search.

So this picture is Image 4848603 available from 123RF Stock Photography for a modest fee. And where is it? It tells us it’s from Atlanta. That’s not a lot to go on, but there aren’t that many large freeway interchanges in Atlanta, and since we live in the Future, we can use Google Earth to fly over the metropolitan area. The background shows it’s in a fairly rural area, and after a brief search, thar she blows, cap’n, off the starboard bow!

It’s the I-285/I-85 interchange near Doraville, Georgia.

I found the whole exercise profoundly satisfying. I could use a cigarette right about now.

2 thoughts on “Image search, or Everything is traceable now”

  1. This is like the end of The Wizard of Oz. It turns out all I had to do was ask Steve. I’ll remember that next time I have a question about a strange image!

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