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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Google Images China Shows Large Pics Inline

Google China’s image search is not quite like its US counterpart. When you click on a thumbnail from the Chinese result, a new window opens showing a special Google page*. On this page, the image will be briefly loaded in low quality, and then be quickly replaced by the original high quality image, by embedding the source URL right in the page. The source webpage URL is then listed at the top right (it will open in yet another new window), whereas clicking on the large image will move forward to the next image; alternatively, you can also use the pager arrows to navigate. Links to the source page as well as the direct source image (or sometimes the text “Unable to load the image”) are shown below the pic.

While Google hotlinks the original images, there is a copyright disclaimer at the bottom, letting users know that (quote from the auto-translation) “the above image ... may be subject to trademark and copyright protection.” What does this mean for websites appearing in Google Images China? One result is that the loading of the webmaster’s site is now a click further away, though when clicked through it does stand on its own, instead of appearing initially framed like on**. The other implication is that Google goes beyond showing thumbnails on their site, and turns to showing high-res imagery. They are never copying the high-res image though, as the pic is originated at the source server when embedded; Google’s app is transforming the display on the client side, if you will (in the semantics of HTML they’re merely delivering information about the high-res image URL, but never about the high-res image content).

Google’s approach in China mirrors the supposedly more popular local competitor Baidu, who in their image search engine also open a mini viewer app window which inline-links larger images.

On a side-note, perhaps due to an error on Google’s part, the image viewer app results themselves are indexable in Google, as a search for shows (though the actual content of these pages might have timed out; I’m getting a “Bad Request” trying to view them). Google’s webmaster guidelines sort of frown on search results in search results.

*Note this might not be a new feature.

**On, a click on the thumbnail opens a same-window page which shows a frameset, one containing a Google info bar, the other the source site... you can then move through to the original source image by clicking on the thumbnail in the info bar, or click to visit the original page frameset-free.


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