By Jennifer Farley

Evolution Of Image Search Continues With Google Swirl

By Jennifer Farley

Google labs are continuing to improve image search. Image search has been a part of Google since 2001 and is a huge timesaver for anyone attempting to find specific images. Advanced image search lets you search for an image and filter it by color, file size, aspect ratio and more.  A more recent feature to be added to image search is “Find Similar Images”. 

After searching for “Andy Warhol” through Image search, Google returns a large number of results as thumbnails. Underneath the thumbnail dimensions and the URL of the page it sits on, the words “Find Similar Images” appears. Click on the link and a new set of thumbnail results is returned, narrowing down the search further. Note that this is not available yet on every image but it is appearing more and more.

Google Swirl
Google labs continue to work on image search and their new experimental service called Google Swirl allows you to customize the image search results. Google Swirl results return 12 thumbnails. When you rollover a thumbnail the image increases in size and displays dimensions and file URL.



Clicking on a thumbnail produces a cluster of images which "swirl" into view. For example when I clicked on the Marilyn artwork a cluster of related Marilyn images appear. According to Google;

Each thumbnail on the initial results page represents an algorithmically-determined representative group of images with similar appearance and meaning. These aren’t just the most relevant images — they are the most relevant groups of images.


Google states that currently, the service will work for more than 200,000 queries with plans to expand the service soon. You can test out Google Swirl on the Google Labs site and read more about it on the official Google blog.

Have you tried out Google Swirl? What are your first impressions?

  • cool. Looks a lot like “the brain” see

  • chuck

    The question that will prove this service popular or not is… will it be easier to search for porn with it?

  • Very interesting.. kind of like Wonder Wheel but for images…

  • Thats why I always use google feature to find out any image I need on internet. The capacity of the server is huge and with fast download.

  • huit

    I’m glad image search is getting more spotlight and development time. Kind of hard to say just how useful it will be without trying it first. Pretty neat!

  • Wardrop

    To be honest, this is pretty cool. Too bad they have to use flash, but HTML5 and wide-support for the the canvas element should change that in a few (ok, maybe 10) years.

  • Good to see more development time being spent on the image search facility. Visually, Google images seems to have been fairly static these past few years – but perhaps this is because it works well? This new ‘Swirl’ looks pretty cool & could potentially make searching for specific images quicker & more fun. However, when doing a more general image search this kind of visual representation could slow the search process down – or not, it’s difficult to say without seeing how intelligent it will be & the load time. Interesting times.

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