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What is Image Search?

Last Updated: Aug 15, 2019

Image Search is an intelligent image service based on deep learning and machine learning technology. By incorporating image recognition and search, it allows you to search by image across different industries and business scenarios. Image Search is developed to meet the requirements of searching and finding similar or identical images.


  • Product image search: This feature allows you to obtain information about products that are similar or identical to the product in your input image.

  • Generic image search: This feature allows you to find images containing subjects or elements that are similar or identical to your input image.


Image Search provides the following benefits:

  • High accuracy: Provides industry-leading search services.

  • Fast response: Responds to queries in milliseconds.

  • Large volume support: Supports over ten billion items.

  • Real-time interface: Allows you to add or remove data dynamically.

  • Customization: Provides customized development for your individual requirements.


Typically, Image Search is applicable to the following scenarios:

  • Image search for online shopping

    To improve the experience of online searching, Image Search has been integrated into the Taobao application, as the Pailitao (snap to buy products) feature. Ever since 2014 when Pailitao was released, the number of daily unique visitors has been continuously increasing, from several hundred to more than ten million per day. The growth indicates that more and more users have adopted the search method to search image by image for online shopping. Unlike traditional keyword search, Pailitao requires only a simple photograph of the product, without any textual product description. This simplifies the procedure of online shopping and improves user experience.


  • Image search on photo websites

    Increasing numbers of people have accessed to the Internet through their smart phones. Photo sharing websites and photo social networks are quickly emerging. These websites store billions of images. However, most of these websites only support searches by simple keywords. With Image Search, you can call APIs to build an image search engine that supports the search of billions of images on an image basis. This will greatly improve the search efficiency and overall user experience.