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Retrieval effectiveness of image search engines

Aabid Hussain (Department of Information, Government of J&K, Jammu and Kashmir, India)
Sumeer Gul (Department of Library and Information Science, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India)
Tariq Ahmad Shah (Central Library, Central University of Kashmir, Srinagar, India)
Sheikh Shueb (Central Library, Islamic University of Science and Technology, Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, India)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 9 April 2019

Issue publication date: 15 May 2019




The purpose of this study is to explore the retrieval effectiveness of three image search engines (ISE) – Google Images, Yahoo Image Search and Picsearch in terms of their image retrieval capability. It is an effort to carry out a Cranfield experiment to know how efficient the commercial giants in the image search are and how efficient an image specific search engine is.


The keyword search feature of three ISEs – Google images, Yahoo Image Search and Picsearch – was exploited to make search with keyword captions of photos as query terms. Selected top ten images were used to act as a testbed for the study, as images were searched in accordance with features of the test bed. Features to be looked for included size (1200 × 800), format of images (JPEG/JPG) and the rank of the original image retrieved by ISEs under study. To gauge the overall retrieval effectiveness in terms of set standards, only first 50 result hits were checked. Retrieval efficiency of select ISEs were examined with respect to their precision and relative recall.


Yahoo Image Search outscores Google Images and Picsearch both in terms of precision and relative recall. Regarding other criteria – image size, image format and image rank in search results, Google Images is ahead of others.

Research limitations/implications

The study only takes into consideration basic image search feature, i.e. text-based search.

Practical implications

The study implies that image search engines should focus on relevant descriptions. The study evaluated text-based image retrieval facilities and thereby offers a choice to users to select best among the available ISEs for their use.


The study provides an insight into the effectiveness of the three ISEs. The study is one of the few studies to gauge retrieval effectiveness of ISEs. Study also produced key findings that are important for all ISE users and researchers and the Web image search industry. Findings of the study will also prove useful for search engine companies to improve their services.



Hussain, A., Gul, S., Shah, T.A. and Shueb, S. (2019), "Retrieval effectiveness of image search engines", The Electronic Library, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 173-184.



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