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TinEye is an image search engine by Idée that lets you find where a particular image has been used on the web.

You are probably saying, “Oh, but there is Google image search for me. Why would I need another one?”. But TinEye is an entirely different kind of image search. While Google image search uses text to search for associated images, TinEye uses an image as a query for searching. Google can’t do that – at least, not yet.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick video explanation from Idée on how TinEye works. Or read on for my explanation.

To search using TinEye, you can either enter a URL to a image on the web or upload an image from your computer. Another way is to install the TinEye browser plugin for Firefox or Internet Explorer. With the plugin installed, you can right click on any web image to search for it using TinEye.

Just like Google indexes all the web pages it crawls, TinEye creates a digital signature or ‘fingerprint’ of the images using sophisticated pattern recognition algorithms. Once you query using an image, TinEye instantly analyzes and compares the ‘fingerprint’ of your query image with the images in its search index.


TinEye not only finds identical images but also the modified versions of the image. As long as the images are alterations of the same query image, TinEye can find them and include them in your search results. But, do remember that TinEye does not actually ‘see’ the image, in the sense that if you upload the image of a dog, it does not see it as a ‘dog’ and fetches you images of other dogs. It only finds if the same image has been used, even if altered or modified. TinEye orders the results by most similarities, meaning that altered images are found towards the end of the search.

So if you take the example of the Mona Lisa :

TinEye will return results such as these :


Now that we have seen what TinEye can do, let’s see what you can do with TinEye. Here are some of the possible uses of TinEye.

  • Suppose you see a photo and would like to have some more information about it. Finding out where else the photo has been used could give you more information about it.
  • If you have posted an interesting photo captured by you on your blog, it would be great to know where else the photo has been used.
  • There could be another side to the previous scenario. You could use TinEye to track if any of your copyrighted images are being used elsewhere.
  • Professional photographers and illustrators can find out where and how their creations are being used.
  • If you have a low resolution image but need a higher resolution image, TinEye could be of great use.
  • If you have a brandname or logo you can use TinEye to see how it’s being used.

I am sure you can think of even more uses for TinEye. If you do, please put your ideas in the comments.

As of writing this post, TinEye has over 586 million images indexed, which is actually a small number considering the size of the web. But TinEye crawls new images on the web on a regular basis and the number of indexed images is constantly growing. So this is gearing up to be an amazing website and you have to wonder when Google will have technology like this?

TinEye is currently in private beta but the company has generously given Make Use Of 1000 pre-approved invites to give away to our readers! They’ve told us you just have to click on this link and you should be on your way to getting set up! Then come back and let us know in the comments what you think!

(By) Suresh Chandren, a computer and internet junkie who loves blogging. He blogs about computers, software and productivity at Digital Quest.

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