Social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter make it dead simple to share your experiences with the world. What’s not so simple: Discovering the experiences of others across all three of these social networks at once. A new image and video search engine called EyeIn hopes to change all that.
Unlike Bing or Google's image searches, EyeIn doesn’t offer results from standard websites, but focuses exclusively on images and videos shared in social networks. EyeIn (a play on the Hebrew word ayin for eye, and pronounced “ine” as in “turbine”) is the brainchild of Tel Aviv-based Mobli Media Inc., the company behind the photo and video sharing app Mobli.
Under development for the last three years, EyeIn aims to maximize the quality of results by filtering out all the noise and returning images it thinks you’d actually want to see.
“For a Lady Gaga concert that we measured, we saw that 70 percent of the photos were selfies, which is not the most interesting or relevant material to someone who wants to see a Lady Gaga concert through the eyes of others,” Ido Sadeh, Mobli’s chief operating officer, told PCWorld.
You may like to see selfies of friends drop through your timeline on Facebook, but when trying to find user-generated images of a particular place or event, thousands of selfies by people you don’t know aren’t all that useful.
Why this matters: One of the best ways to find out about breaking current events is through sites like Twitter and Instagram. The only problem is switching between all the various social networks can be a pain. EyeIn helps solve this problem by bringing user-contributed content into one place in a simple, streamlined package. You will be limited by what EyeIn decides is the most relevant content to your query, but it’s still a great place to start a search for images from social media.
In my experience, EyeIn was very easy to use and an incredible time waster when you want to delve into the latest unfiltered shots from the NBA finals, reactions from Sunday’s Game of Thrones season finale, or the meme machine inspired by the Rachel Dolezal story.
Hands-on with EyeIn
Like any other search engine, EyeIn searches start with keywords relating to a particular place, event, person, news event, or online meme. From there, you can drill down based on location and date.
As with other search engines, EyeIn’s homepage features a large search bar in the middle of the page. Below that are trending subjects such as the events mentioned above.
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the last Game of Thrones episode yet, don’t look at EyeIn’s trending section.
You can search for, say, images from the recent floods in Georgia or the earthquakes in Nepal. As EyeIn is new, finding images is really only solid for events that occurred in the past month and a half or so. Go back further than that and you’ll have to refine your search by location and date.
That said, sometimes even recent events can be a tough find if you’re looking for images about a niche topic. Surfing is one of my favorite sports, but getting photos from the World Surf League’s ongoing Fiji Pro event took a little digging.
EyeIn didn’t have an autosuggest for the keywords “Fiji Pro” in any form, but after I searched for Tavarua Island—the location of the tournament—results started popping up.
What I liked about EyeIn’s results is that they tend to offer a behind the scenes look at whatever event you’re searching for. During my Fiji search, I saw a lot of candid photos from various surfers that are on the pro tour, as well as fans. I could have found a lot of these images on Instagram, but EyeIn’s algorithms narrowed down the results to many interesting shots I likely would’ve missed. The one downside is EyeIn’s results don’t completely weed out annoying selfies, especially if you’re searching based on a location and not an event recognized by the search engine.
In my experience, most photo results came from Instagram, which Sadeh says is to be expected. Even though EyeIn also searches across Facebook, Mobli, and Twitter, image-focused Instagram tends to have the best and most relevant results.
After an initial search, you can filter your results by location and date. Let’s say I was searching for photos from the protests in Baltimore in April. I could start by searching for West North and Pennsylvania, Baltimore—a central location during the events in that city. Then on the results page I could refine the date to April 27, 2015, and see results just from that day.
If I wanted to see more results from other parts of Baltimore I could click on the expand icon next to the map place marker to enlarge the search location radius. I could also pick up the place marker and move it anywhere else on the map to see results from different areas of the city.
What you see is entirely dependent on what EyeIn’s algorithms choose to show you. The search engine refines its results based on a number of factors, including the photo or video’s location, caption, comments, likes, and so on.
Once you’re done searching, you can click on any result to start a manual slideshow. You can also see the image’s original caption, as well as the number of comments and likes it has. To view those comments, however, you have to click through to the originating social network.
EyeIn also offers sharing tools to allow you to embed an EyeIn search results gallery on your blog or share a link via Facebook or Twitter. To share a specific image, however, you’ll have to visit the originating social network and then share the image from there.
What about those social networks?
EyeIn is a handy and well-designed tool, but I have to wonder whether it can last. Social networks, especially Facebook and Twitter, can sometimes get a little possessive when it comes to other platforms using their content as a data source.
EyeIn for publishers
In addition to the regular search engine, EyeIn is also launching a free tool for publishers that allows sites to embed EyeIn galleries in their news stories. Using a free browser plugin, EyeIn automatically analyzes a webpage’s text and then offers an embeddable image gallery based on the story subject. We didn't test the plugin prior to publication, but anyone who is interested in trying it out can find more information on EyeIn’s site.
EyeIn is a great tool and is really more of a complement than a competitor to Bing or Google image search. The new search engine works well for sniffing out user-generated content such as raw scenes from a protest or seats at the big game. If all you want is a standard image of Times Square or the Chicago Blackhawks logo, then Bing or Google are still your better sources.