A Modern-Day AltaVista

Over the last couple of years there has been a noticeable progression in quality search results from Google's Image Search site. A decade ago one could be guaranteed to find what they were looking for within five to ten minutes. Five years ago a person might need about 15. Last year, after the most recent changes to the filters were released, the site became much more difficult to use. Today, it's just a presentation layer for two dozen stock photo sites that have invested heavily into tagging every picture in their catalogue with as many nouns and adjectives as they possibly can. 123rf, Alamy, iStockPhoto, Shutterstock and DreamsTime have completely SEO'd the heck out of their offerings, rendering Google's search mechanism ultimately useless; a modern-day AltaVista.

Google Image Search Result

Some of the features I miss include being able to specify a minimum resolution. "Large" is typically anything but, as I generally seek resolutions that exceed 4000 pixels wide wherever possible. I'll scale the image down myself, but why settle for lower quality up front? The newer, simpler filters for location and source and age are also woefully inadequate for the task they're being asked to handle, which is terribly disappointing. There are options, of course, from Yahoo! to Bing to Flickr to Getty1, but none are quite as versatile as the old Google Image Search was.

This seems to be the standard with a lot of great websites, though. The tools start out far more powerful than anything else, then slowly degrade and stagnate to the point where it no longer makes sense to use them. It could be time for a whole bunch of hungry entrepreneurs to come up from the bottom and offer something new and interesting. We saw this in the late 90s and early 2000s when the big companies lost ground to Google, Amazon, Apple, and the like. Organisations become sluggish after two decades.

  1. Getty Images is generally a great place for professional photos that will be used in print materials or something that will be seen by clients. I use them from time to time for personal and professional projects.