Flickr's new search tool puts details into focus

Search results page now focuses on thumbnails and makes it easier to discover groups and photographers who take shots relating to your search term.

Yahoo-owned photo sharing site Flickr has a new search results page that marks a subtle, but important change in the way users can find the photo they're looking for.

Similar to the way most search engines display an array of thumbnails, users can now parse through small or medium size previews of photos, and view detailed information about the shot without even having to visit its photo page. It's also a lot more straightforward in how it directs users to various other parts of the service such as groups, other users, and photos with similar tags. These suggestions now sit on the right-hand side of the results page.

Flickr's new search lets you see things like metadata and view counts, without having to venture to the photo's page on Flickr. CNET

My favorite new feature of the bunch is that the engine now shows you things like views, comments, notes, and tags--right from the results. This is normally information you'd have to dig for on the photo page itself. Unfortunately, you still can't sort by these parameters to say, find a photo of a seagull with the most views ever.

As nice as the new look and feed of the engine is, it's missing some of the real heavy-duty features that power users (like me) yearn for, like being able to search and sort by camera metadata--something Flickr collects, though does not seem to index. There's also not a simple way to filter results between photos or videos without delving into the advanced settings menu, which remains unchanged.

I also ran into some noticeable slowdowns, which I'm willing to chock up to first day jitters. Many of the searches I did took anywhere from 3 to 8 seconds, with some of the longest delays showing up when switching between photo search, group search, and people search. Other times it was almost instantaneous.

Faults aside, this is a very nice upgrade for Flickr users. If the service's "explore" section was getting some heavy attention before, I think its search page may eventually overtake it, as it now provides the same type of rich exploration and discovery that makes photo nerds like me lose themselves in other people's shots.

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