Releasing Riya on the World Wild Web

Riya heading into Web search | Between the Lines | Dan Farber has an interesting article out today on Riya, the new facial recognition focusesd photo sharing site. I did a write up on Riya a while back and have been using it for a bit. I really like the concept of facial recognition software to make tagging and organization of your photos easier. Riya of course still needs many more users but Farber points out in his article that their according to their CEO Munjal Shah, their intial growth rate has “exceeded the initial growth rate of Flickr.”

According to Shah he expects 10 million images in the next six to eight weeks. Flickr of course earlier this year in February hit the 100 millionth photo milestone.

The news today though is not about Riya’s growth per se, but more about how it will be used. Facial recognition software is a powerful thing. It’s super interesting and to some privacy advocates also super scary. I’m less concerned with the privacy stuff and have uploaded about 4,000 or so of my photographs to the site. One of my fantasies has always been to have a copy of every photo I’ve ever appeared in in my life. A shot from my 10th grade class trip. A shot where I’m in the background of someone else’s shot at Disneyland. A group shot amongst a bunch of friends back in college. These kinds of things. I’m sure that there are photos on the internet of all of us and our friends that we don’t know about. As publishing has become easier and easier and photo sharing has become more nad more popular, it is only a matter of time before more and more of this content unknown to us makes it’s way online.

Of course finding these photos becomes the proverbial needle in a haystack. Although Riya does not offer facial recognition web search today it is exciting to hear Shah talk about implementing these kinds of features in the future:

From the post: “But Shah isn’t planning to focus on photo organization, sharing and hosting. His goal is to build in capabilities to search across billions of publicly available images. “We are still focused on people uploading [images],” Shah said. “And, we have been a search engine the whole time. We are better at finding people, and our [searching] is growing faster than uploading. You will see us do more crawling and searching of public images in addition to what is uploaded.””

This represents exciting technology and although I’d imagine that we are in fact quite a bit of ways off, I do think there will be a day when we routinely find these photo gems.

I would also impress upon Riya though to not completely dismiss the community aspects that ought to be involved in them building there site. The community tools utilized by people like Flickr (groups, contacts, interaction, etc.) make Flickr super sticky. Super sticky sites stay on the forefront of people’s minds and get more photos uploaded. Riya will always be dependent to make the site better and better on people uploading more and more photos and taking the time to train those photos. Give them the incentive of community and traditional flickrlike community stuff to try and incent them to stay and be active.