Link A Video to That Photo: Stipple Opens Its Image Tagging Service to the Public

Social image site Stipple is relaunching Thursday with new tools and indexing features designed to fix the perpetual problem of image attribution and introduce brand-new sales channels through the use of images alone - for all Web users.

Stipple uses what’s known as in-image tagging to let certain Stipple participants to tag an image with information about the picture, or add links back to the participants' Web site.

What is intriguing about this kind of tagging is the way Stipple managed it: instead of embedding the information within the image file itself, typically done with the use of metatags, Stipple can examine images for similarities to other baseline pictures, such as an article of clothing or a certain vehicle model. Tagging images by the way they look, through pattern matching, means that stripping out this meta information becomes nearly impossible.

When a similar image to the indexed image appears on a site scanned by Stipple, Stipple will insert tiny blue tags that appear when the image is passed over with the mouse. When the the cursor passes over the tags in a picture, up pops a little window with links to a vendor or a catalog entry… anything the vendor wants readers to see associated with the image.

In-Image Tagging For Everyone

Just as important, beginning Thursday, Stipple is no longer letting advertisers and brand-owners have all the fun: the tagging service is now available to all Stipple users.

The company is also announcing a new Stipple browser extension that will let users see information on Stippled images on whatever Web site they might appear.

Stipple CEO Rey Flemings described the immediate benefits of Stipple’s tools to its users:

“We ensure that information follows the photo,” Flemings explained. This is critical in an age of hyper-republication, where no one - not individuals and not brands - have control over their images. “Stipple is hoping to solve the problem of image attribution.”

Now that the service is open to all Stipple users, any one can assign the attribution they want to images uploaded to Stipple. And not just attribution.

Real-Time Links

For example, Flemings demonstrated how real-time links to information from product catalog can follow an image of a pair of shoes no matter what website that image ends up on.

Image creators can also take advantage of this service. Photographers can tag their images, and then sell rights to use them for micro-payments. Or ship prints of the image to whoever wants to pay for the privilege.

Flemings also stressed the capability to interject storytelling within images, by attaching videos and text to an image.

It’s not just about setting up creative storytelling and making new sales channels. There is also the promise of gleaning a rich treasure trove of data from Stippled images.

Fleming explained how one large advertiser tagged images for the recent Euro 2012 soccer tournament. On one day of the matches, 152 tagged photos were viewed, receiving a total of 303,962 pageviews. Of the images that were tagged, 64,522 users moused over the tagged images, and 97% of those users actually moused over the Stipple tags themselves, likely curious to see what they represented.

That’s a lot of data to use in a marketing campaign. Even better for the advertiser in question was the click-through rate on those Stipple tags: 1.08%. For “regular” Internet ads, you’re typically thrilled if you get users to click through more than 0.3% of the time.

That kind of interaction and data should be attractive to marketers, but also to anyone who wants to know how their images are used. By opening its door to more users, Stipple hopes to make its in-image tagging service a more ubiquitous Web feature.