Wylio Revamps Creative Commons Image Search

Wylio Logo ImageOver two years ago, Wylio launched a search engine that aimed to make it simple to find and embed Creative Commons images in your site or blog.

By tapping into the Flickr API and looking for open-licensed images, Wylio is able to track over 100 million photos that you can use right now on your site. Though my initial thoughts were mixed, over the past three years work on the service has not stopped and the site recently released version 3.0 of its Creative Commons image search tool.

Does this new update make Wylio a worthwhile service for your image needs? It’s difficult to say but, if you passed on the original version it’s not likely that the update will add much to keep you interested. Though there are definitely some notable improvements, many of the limitations of the original service are still intact.

As such, how you feel about Wylio in 20114 is going to be determined almost entirely by how you felt (or would have felt) about it in 2011.

Wylio and It’s Update

The basics of Wylio and its service remain unchanged from the 2011 version. Wylio is a search engine that aims to make it easy to find and embed Creative Commons images into your site. You simply search for what you want, Wylio uses the Flickr API to locate appropriate Creative Commons images for you.

Wylio Sample

From there, you find the image that you want and are given the opportunity to either download the file or, if you’re a pro user, select the size and position of the image and generate the embed code that you will use to place the image on your site.

Wylio Sample 2

In the new version, there are just two accounts. The free account lets you perform unlimited searches and download relevant images to your computer for uploading. However, if you wish to use them, you are responsible for attribution. The pro account, which is $36/year, lets you automatically generate an embed code that not only sizes and aligns the image, but adds attribution to it.

As far as what’s new in Version 3.0 of Wylio, there are a few key improvements:

  • Unlimited Images on All Accounts
  • Platform-Specific Embed Codes (Includes WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace and Generic Fluid/Fixed Codes)
  • Text Attribution (No On-image Attribution)
  • Ability to Remove Wylio Linkback
  • Guest Accounts

All in all, the new features are a definite improvement over the version I reviewed 3 years ago. However, whether this becomes your first stop for images is still up to your specific needs.

What Wylio (Still) Gets Right

Large copyright graffiti sign on cream colored wall from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Horia Varlan, Flickr | CC-BY

Note: Sample Wylio image to the right.

The update doesn’t really change much about what Wylio does well. It’s list of useful features includes:

  1. Image Resizing/Positioning: Wylio makes it easy to resize the image to the exact size you need and, in a pro account, to determine how it is aligned in your site.
  2. Search Results: Search results were/are compelling and quick. This has more to do with Flickr, but still a great benefit of Wylio.
  3. Library Size: Wylio has over 100 million images available to it. That’s much larger than comparable sites.
  4. Pricing: At still $3 per month for unlimited images, it’s affordable and cheaper than even the lowest-cost paid stock photo site, especially for unlimited images.
  5. Text Attribution: Rather than primarily using the on-image attribution, which was incomplete under the license, Wylio now uses proper text attribution, which looks better and completes the license.

Another crucial feature that was added was the ability to remove the Wylio.com link. Previous iterations made this a requirement, even on paid accounts, but it can now be removed from the “settings” menu.

But while those features are great, it doesn’t mean that Wylio is your image searching dream tool. There are still a few things holding it back.

Where Wylio (Still) Falls Down

But where the Wylio’s updates have addressed many of the core concerns about the product, there are still a great deal of issues with it, including some that are new to the latest version.

  1. Creative Commons Licensing: Though you can choose your license with this version, there’s no way to select images available for non-commercial use. As explained in the previous post, this is because Wylio is a commercial service and can’t legally provide those images.
  2. No Attribution on Downloads: The previous version would add attribution to the image itself for downloads. The new version just uses the HTML text. It’s not even an option for the pro account.
  3. No License Guarantees: Though Wylio pulls from Flickr, it can’t guarantee that every image is correctly licensed and responsibility is yours to make sure you actually have the rights to the images you use. Several images I ran across were clearly copyrighted from other sources.
  4. Image Embedding: There’s no easy way to take an image and host it on your server while using Wylio’s attribution. If you visit my first post on Wylio, you’ll see a broken image, that’s Wylio’s image embed breaking, making the problem clear. (Note: Wylio has since fixed the image.)

The crux of the problem with Wylio is that you’re stuck between two imperfect choices. You either get a download that you have to create your own attribution line, or you can have Wylio do all of the work, but only get an embed code that may or may not work six months down the line.

Neither option is 100% ideal and, for $36 per year, an ideal solution would seem to be called for. Even if it requires a plugin or other some other extension to work. But given that there are free sites out there like Morguefile, which allows you to crop and resize images that have no need for attribution and avoid many of the issues with using CC-licensed images, Wylio needs to make a stronger case to woo people like me over to using it.

Bottom Line

For me, Wylio is a great idea that simply is not adequately executed. Stuck between a download feature of limited use and an embed feature that creates risks of broken images down the road, Wylio is something of a devil’s choice.

For most bloggers, I have a feeling sites like Morguefile are still better suited for their needs. This is made stronger by the fact that free stock photo sites have no attribution requirements.

Wylio may be a great idea, but it’s got some stiff competition and its imperfect solution doesn’t give it much room to compete right now.

However, I am still an optimist about Wylio. The developers said that one of the key reasons for the update was to make future changes even easier, opening the door to the possibility that they could fix their limitations and, with time, craft the truly perfect image licensing solution.

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