The visual web

1 minute read

The visual web

When it started, the web was just hypertext and links. Since then, a whole visual web has emerged. Today images are predominant on the web, if in appearance only. We are still in an environment dominated by words, yet images are growing in presence. Tackling images on small screens is an issue for web designers. Mobile devices should not load unnecessary big images. A solution is using resized images to preserve the intended original layout. A <picture element> aims to solve this—see also Responsive Images in Practice.

There is a growing number of image management systems as well:

  • thumbor is an open-source smart on-demand image cropping, resizing and filters

  • grid, The Guardian’s image management service, also open source.

  • imgx, a toolbox for responsive images.

As the use of images increases, search engines are getting better at images processing and management. Using image recognition coupled to search softwares, TinEye for instance, reverses the search process. Instead of searching for keywords, you feed it with an image link or an uploaded one. It will tell you where that image is in use, and how many duplicates and variations it finds on the web. It lets illustrators, photographers and designers track imitations or appropriation of their works. But the underlying technology implications and its potential development exceed that. Large corporations are becoming even more protective of their visual assets. With massive image licensing revenues at stake, the future looks bright for image search.

Further Reading


Graydon Hoare “always bet on text” October 14, 2014.
Tim Caemodt, Kottke. “Facebook is wrong, text is deathless” (June 15 2016)

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