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November 8, 2006

Image analysis makes Like easy to love.

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I’m for any search engine that makes my shopping job easier and so I’m super excited about Lisa not being here so that I get to do the review on Like.com.

Like.com is an alpha product from Riya that bases its suggestions on pictures of items or celebrities. You can search their index or browse by product categories (just four right now: jewelry, watches, shoes and handbags. They promise that more are coming soon.) Their About page claims to be the first true visual search engine and says:

Key features of Like.com include:

  • Likeness Search™ – the ability to search by image instead of text;
  • Like Detail™ – finds items that have a specific feature you like (such as a buckle, straps, bezel, etc);
  • Like Color™ – find color variants of the item you desire;
  • Like Celebrity™ – find clothing, shoes and accessories similar to those worn by your favorite celebrities;
  • Like Upload™ – the ability to upload your own photo of your favorite item and find the same or similar products, coming soon.

Because it’s always fun to steal the fashion of the stars, I started there. There are several famous women to choose from; I went with Sienna Miller. Once chosen I was presented with four pictures of Sienna, each with a different item isolated–shoes (very cute Mary Janes), earrings (really pretty teardrop shapes), and two different purses (one purple clutch and one black handbag). The items were repeated at the bottom of the page with Like’s best guess match. The shoes lost their patent leather shine and flowers and the clutch mysteriously gained a handle. The earrings were, as far as I could tell, pretty close though the picture was too small to really scrutinize them. The site would benefit a great deal from a zoom function.

Anyway, I went with the earrings because I was least tempted by them (I don’t have pierced ears, it’s a long story.) Now I was in the real search section. Three sliders–color, shape and pattern–sit at the top while the original image is available on the side for comparison. The other neat thing is that you can draw a box around part of the image so that you’re matching just that. After playing with it for a few minutes, I felt the urge to pierce my ears again and that never ends well, so good-bye Sienna, thanks for the fashion advice.

Back on the main page, I decided to go shoe shopping. More celebrities appeared on this page as well as a breakdown into categories by types of shoes. Resisting the urge to check out Catherine Zeta-Jones’s heels, I went for casual shoes, choosing sneakers on the drop down. Again, I was trying to not be tempted into buying something.

On the next page, I was dismayed to see that my options for narrowing down what I was looking for were limited to Brand and Site. No color selector? No shape or pattern? Where were my sliders and check boxes? I was stuck looking at ugly white sneakers. Page two was a little better (hey, look! A black shoe!) and I clicked on the likeness search for a very cute pair of Adidas. Once on the likeness match page, my sliders and choices came back. Excellent.

Deciding that I didn’t really care all that much about color, I deemphasized that quite a bit and pumped up the shape (too many heels and boots showing up in the matches.) After a bit of perusing, I clicked on some Diesel running shoes. Breadcrumbs at the top of the page tracked my progress with pictures of the shoes I’d looked at so far. Nice. I didn’t get the shoes (…today) but I definitely will keep them in mind.

All in all it was a fairly seamless experience. What I’d really like is a favorites feature so that I can go back and compare all the things I’m interested in. It would also be awesome to be able to point the engine to a picture of my own choice and have it return products based on that. Riya’s been working on it (notice that it says coming soon in their key features) and when they manage it, Like will be a killer.

Of course, the real question is not, “did Susan find shoes to wear to the next soccer game?” but “hey, I sell shoes, how do I get my items into Like so that I can benefit from all this traffic and sell my shoes to Susan?”

Fret not, Like.com offers an add products page on their site. Fill out your company’s information and Web site URL. Make sure that your product description are clear and contain the sort of things that Like is looking for: color, material, type, brand. Optimizing for visual search is a different beast but some of the same principles apply–be clear, be relevant, don’t be deceptive.

As for me, I’m an equal opportunity shoe buyer and I respond well to sales and special discounts. I’m a size 8.

Don’t like my review? Check out Danny’s trip through Like at SEW. He’s got a collection of links to other review and similar search engines.

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