I was floating around Google Images just now when I noticed this call to action message at the bottom of the screen: "New! Want to improve Google Image Search? Try Google Image Labeler."
With interest I clicked the call to action and found the Google Image Labeler landing page with this description:
"Welcome to Google Image Labeler, a new feature of Google Image Search that allows you to label random images to help improve the quality of Google's image search results.
How does it work?
You'll be randomly paired with a partner who's online and using the feature. Over a two-minute period, you and your partner will be shown the same set of images and asked to provide as many labels as possible to describe each image you see. When your label matches your partner's label, you'll earn points depending on how specific your label is. You'll be shown more images until time runs out. After time expires, you can explore the images you've seen and the websites where those images were found. And we'll show you the points you've earned throughout the session."
This got me excited for two reasons:
1. Google can call them "labels" but what they are actually asking their users to do is to help them to "tag" images. Tagging images will prime us for the Semantic Web (some people call this Web 3.0). The more we tag items (images, audio, text, video, etc_) the more we are helping to organize the Web based off of non-computer algorithms. Google understands the power of the Semantic Web (natural language) and their multi-billion dollar company is not going to go away when other companies who offer search platforms that are based more on semantics and human tagging come along (flickr is a great example of a tag generated search engine). It also means that the Web gets easier (and better) to use as more and more people get comfortable tagging and organizing pieces of content (David Weinberger must be so happy).
2. I also loved playing with the Google Image Labeler because this initiative further validates the growing buzz that soon Google will have full-blown Universal search results - meaning, when you conduct a search, you won't just see text results. You'll see everything in one (universal) place: text, images, audio, news, etc_
If you're in the Search Engine Optimization or the Search Engine Marketing business, you need to be paying even closer attention to how quickly Google is rolling out new initiatives like this, and how it will affect your clients who are looking to rank top of page on their text-based search results.