This week, Google Image Search is getting a lot less useful, with the removal of the “View Image” button. Before, users could search for an image and click the “View Image” button to download it directly without leaving Google or visiting the website. Now, Google Images is removing that button, hoping to encourage users to click through to the hosting website if they want to download an image.
Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, announced the change on Twitter yesterday, saying it would “help connect users and useful websites.” Later Sullivan admitted that “these changes came about in part due to our settlement with Getty Images this week” and that “they are designed to strike a balance between serving user needs and publisher concerns, both stakeholders we value.”
Almost two years ago, Getty Images filed antitrust charges against Google in the EU, taking issue with the company’s image scraping techniques to display image search results. Earlier this week Google and Getty Images announced a partnership and Getty withdrew its charges against Google. Changes like the removal of direct image links were apparently part of the agreement.
On one hand, Google Images focuses mainly on the content of the image and doesn’t do much to display the copyright status of its search results. With the “View Image” button, it was easy for users to go directly from searching to downloading an image without ever seeing or considering who owned the image. Image piracy is a rampant thing on the Internet (the images I take for device reviews are regularly stolen, for instance) and content creation firms like Getty Images could see the “view image” button as promoting image piracy.
On the other hand, it makes Image Search less useful for users, requiring extra clicks to get the image you want. Adhering to copyright law is still the user’s responsibility, and a whole lot of images on the Web aren’t locked down under copyright law. There are tons of public domain and creative commons images out there (like everything on Wikipedia, for instance), and lots of organizations are free to use many copyrighted images under fair use. There are also many times when content on a page will change, and the “visit site” button will go to a Web page that doesn’t have the image Google told you it had.
For users that want to stick with Google, the image previews you see are actually hot linked images, so right clicking and choosing “open image in new tab” (or whatever your equivalent browser option is) will still get you a direct image link. There is also already an open source browser extension called “Make Google Image Search Great Again” that will restore the “View Image” button. But if you’re looking to dump Google over this change, Bing and DuckDuckGo continue to offer “View Image” buttons.