There’s a new image-focused technology on the horizon; technology that can bring together image owners, creators, publishers, and advertisers, and ensures that every player in the ecosystem is compensated fairly, while simultaneously enhancing the user experience and presenting fresh opportunities for advertisers. It’s called image streaming, and it’s a secure and efficient way to display and publish images online. 

How does it work?

Online images are usually uploaded directly to a site in a traditional format such as JPEG, PNG, or GIF. With image streaming, images are uploaded to a secure, password-protected central server, which generates a specific embed code that is then pasted into a webpage editor, such as WordPress or Weebly. These embedded images are then displayed on a webpage, similar to the way a normal uploaded image would. The difference is, this method incorporates a number of additional security features, powerful metadata, and interactive controls, which together provide image owners, publishers, and advertisers with a unique opportunity to enhance both security and end-user experience.

Security: Studies have shown that more than 2.5 billion images are stolen daily, fueled by the way images are published today on various social platforms and websites. While sharing culture provides unprecedented global reach and connection, it also comes with a variety of hidden costs, robbing image creators of fair compensation and increasing the risk of altered imagery spreading misinformation and disinformation online. Images are copied, downloaded, and redistributed without consent or awareness of the original source. Image streaming can improve this system: right-click, screenshot, and drag-and-drop actions are all disabled, instead displaying copyright notices that direct the user to a trackable embed code. Not only does this protection prevent unauthorised copies being made, but with each image being streamed from a single file on a secure server, creators and publishers have the ability to see and control where their content appears across the web.

Context: When uploading an image to the central server, image owners can attach uneditable metadata – captions, details of image content, and attribution – that stays with it wherever it’s displayed. An additional layer of control is provided via a list of the URLs and domains that host the image, giving the owner an opportunity to deactivate the image from view on a particular site at any time. Once an image has been published, it is also possible to gather analytics data, which gives publishers and image owners unprecedented insights into how the content is viewed, shared, and enjoyed. Performance can be measured through the number of views, clicks, and shares an image receives and it is even possible to see where shares and theft attempts take place.

Interactive controls: The end-user benefits too. While publishers and website owners often upload images in the lowest resolution possible to keep buffering times down, streamed images keep sites light even when extremely high resolutions are used as they are not permanently uploaded to the page. They also adapt to individual user display resolutions and make it possible for audiences to view pictures in full-screen mode or zoom into the finest details. This makes image viewing more interactive and boosts engagement.

Furthermore, the publisher can choose which features to embed: if a sharing option is included, this ensures the image is circulated consensually.

Why does it matter?

These features benefit the whole industry and introduce fairness, transparency, and equality into the supply chain. Here’s how:

Advertisers: Image streaming is a sure-fire way to guarantee high-quality contextual coverage and high-visibility placement. By using streaming technology, advertisers can activate in-image advertising, whereby an ad is shared within the space that an image is already displayed – often the focal point of a piece – sliding into the frame while a consumer is looking at it.

A combination of AI and metadata ensures the ads are targeted in contextually relevant environments, based on the exact origin and context of the image. For example, a picture of a football team could switch to an advertised football jersey for that team and back again in an article on the latest Premier League developments. Considering the uncertainty of third-party cookies and their future alternative, plus the ever-looming concern of ads being placed alongside unsuitable content, in-image advertising provides a crucial solution to delivering relevant content that is also brand safe, while respecting user privacy.

Publishers: Publishers, from bloggers and news outlets to image libraries, can reap the benefits of streaming images, including increased advertising revenue and the ability to offer a more engaging and effective user experience. In addition to this, since image owners are able to monetise their images through advertising, many will consider providing them to publishers for free, addressing a significant cost of more traditional licensing models.

Image/content owners: When it comes to the contemporary media landscape, it’s often image owners who come out the worst. Their work is redistributed without consent, copyright notice, or adequate compensation. Not only does image streaming allow image creators – from photographers to graphic artists – to keep track of their work with guaranteed accreditation, but it also ensures high visual quality whichever device it’s on, while empowering them to embrace a new stream of revenue through in-image advertising.

Going forwards

Image streaming is a revolutionary technology that not only supports a more transparent and equal media ecosystem, but also offers new models of monetisation. Instead of spending considerable time and resources trying to trace stolen images, streaming images can prevent their theft, which is currently all too easy to accomplish. All streamed images are protected and tracked, which helps brands, publishers, and image owners know how, where, and when audiences interact with their content. It also offers a much-needed opportunity for truly contextually relevant, brand-safe placements for advertisers. In short, image streaming creates opportunities at every stage of the media and image supply chain – a win-win situation for image owners, advertisers, and publishers.