Back in April, Wired published a story about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's mission to make Flickr awesome again. Likely, that was the motivation behind Yahoo's recent acquisition of IQ Engines, a popular image recognition service. IQ Engines wrote on its homepage:
"We are thrilled to announce that IQ Engines is joining the Flickr team at Yahoo!. As longtime Flickr fans and fellow photography enthusiasts, we look forward to working on improving photo organization and search for the community."
Founded in 2008 by a group of computer scientists and neuroscientists from the University of California at Davis and the University of California at Berkley, IQ Engines first made headlines in 2010 with $1 million in funding for a user friendly API that helps people organize images.
The company's technology focuses around two APIs: A Smart Camera API directed toward retailers and a Smart Album API that allows users to browse, search and share photos. According to IQ Engines' mostly dismantled website, the company was also in the process of working on a new app called Glow that uses smart album technology to tag and sort photos on mobile devices.
Yahoo’s buying spree of late has been well reported. The Sunnyvale company has acquired 11 companies this year alone, including Qwiki, an iOS app that lets users create movies out of photos, for $50 million in July. A month before that, Yahoo bought blogging platform Tumblr for an eye-popping $1.1 billion.
How much did Yahoo spend on IQ Engines? Nobody knows, because Yahoo hasn't disclosed the details. We do know that behind some of the company's big spending is Mayer, who took over the helm at Yahoo in mid-2012. Since then, the former Google employee has made it clear that overhauling Flickr is one of her main priorities.
As Eric Steuer reported in Wired, Flickr for years “was one of the web’s brightest stars.” But the company, which launched in 2004, floundered in the shadow of Facebook and Yahoo's mismanagement. (Yahoo bought Flickr in 2005.)
Will Flickr shine again? Time will tell, but integrating technology from IQ Engines might be a step in the right direction.