Confessions of a researchaholic

July 10, 2009

The free price for search

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:29 am
Tags: , , ,

Many people, including myself, observe that Bing produces better search results than Google. But this does not mean that people will switch. Techcrunch has a recent article on this subject. There are various potential reasons behind this unwillingness to switch, such as brand loyalty or the improvement of Bing over Google is not enough.

I wonder if the fact that search is free also plays a role here. In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely has shown that giving something for free could distort peoples incentives and judgments, making them abandon their usual (more rational) thinking for non-free products. So under the hypothetical situation that people will have to pay to use search engines (either a flat rate or a usage charge or a combination), will this make them more likely to switch to a better product?

Of course, as long as Google stay pat and not charging for the use of its search engine, this may never be an issue. But we never know; Google already started to charge for some of its previously free products.

April 21, 2009

Similar image search

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:19 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Google’s new toy similar image search looks intriguing, but still it does not allow query by images directly.

True content-based image search is definitely very hard, and so far I haven’t seen any system that (remotely) works.

I do not know exactly how Google’s similar image search is implemented, but it could entirely avoid content-based image search by providing similarity links between images that are already indexed in Google’s database. Thus, the similarity computation could not only be conducted offline, but also leverage contextual information such as texts surrounding images. The similarity links could even be edited by humans if necessary.

I still remember the first encounter that prompted me to feel the need for content-based image search. After submitting my camera-ready paper to SIGGRAPH 2000, Stephen Spencer asked me to secure proper copyrights for all images used in the paper. But there is this famous little green texture that I simply could not track down the original ownership (even until today).

If there is a system that would allow me to do so, I will consider it a real success. (I am looking forward to Google’s official deployment of their similar image search system to see if I could unveil the true origin of “my little green friend”).

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