*Update, Nov 13, 2013 – there is now a formal antitrust complaint registered by CEPIC, the Center of the Picture Industry, thousands of photographers and picture agencies, against Google on this matter. See here.
So, by now a number of people around the web have commented on the new Google Images display; some even talking about how nice and clean the interface looks. What I haven’t seen is anyone discuss how the Google Mobile App now works.
At left is a screenshot from my iPad of how Google Images, using the google app, displays photos on mobile devices. Underneath the image is a tiny thumbnail showing where they’ve extracted this photo from (and where the source file is hosted – in this case, my website).
When the visitor clicks “Options”, under the file, the 3 options are
“Save Image”, “Similar Images” and “View Web Page”. That’s right, the very first option is “Save Image” – Google grant you the option to save the full size jpeg right from my website, without you ever having to actually visit my website.
This is a pretty ballsy move, I must say. There’s been quite a bit of chatter around the ole interwebs about the new google images, on various web masters forums and so on, as well as some of the social media. Twitter, Google plus, etc. See Official Google Rollout, or Webmasters World. Safe to say, a lotta people are peeved. I’m surprised no one has mentioned this (that I’ve seen, anyway).
If you’re unsure of how this might be a problem, think of it in terms of non-photo content. Let’s say the new york times have a great article on cool Alaska widgets. Their reporters did weeks of research, put together an awesome article, and they finally published on nytimes.com. Now you do a google search for cool Alaska widgets and first up in the results is the nytimes article. You click on the link, and instead of being directed to nytimes.com, you stay on google.com and they simply display all the information from the article, with a “save as pdf” button beside it. The folks at nytimes would be reasonably, quite upset.
This is exactly the same thing for photo content. Google, instead of sending traffic TO a website, are bringing content from a website to google visitors. Which is completely unreasonable, unethical, and downright shady. Shame, shame, shame on you, Messrs Page and Brin.
To see how some of this has changed recently, here’s a screen capture of how Google Images used to work – until late last month:
You can see here the image display pops up overlaid the source webpage the file comes from; my breathtaking blog. The image being displayed here is about 600px wide — less than the actual file size of 750px wide. But the key things, I think, are the difference in the interface. Here, clicking on the “x” takes the visitor to the webpage displayed underneath the file – the only way to return to google is hit your back browser. Most people won’t, they’ll hit the X, and be directed to my site. Which is were they should land, having just clicked on a link to my site in the search results (the thumbnail). This is as it should be. The visitor clicked a thumbnail for my image, which google create as a ‘snippet’ of my content; akin to me quoting a sentence or 2 from a longer piece of text.
What’s not OK is for google to simply collate the content from around the web, store all of it on their servers, and then present that complete content as search results; that’s, plain and simple, copyright infringement. Of course, there are always gray areas around issues of copyright infringement; lawyers far more clever (and highly paid) than I will argue themselves blues in the face building ridiculous arguments to defend this. We’ll see how that goes, I suppose.
The “Save Image” button, on the other hand, has to go. Google have no right, whatsoever, to offer, even encourage, google visitors the right to download my content for free, and particularly when that visitor now doesn’t even have to actually visit my website to do so. For that fact, google can should be ashamed of themselves. And they should take that “Save Image” button off their app right away.