Stipple -vs.- Thinglink -vs.- Pixazza (Luminate)

The primary differences between the companies lie in four areas:

  1. Accuracy. Information versus Ads.
  2. Scale. Automated versus Manual Tagging
  3. Distribution. The Open Web versus Walled Gardens.
  4. Platform. Online images are an ecosystem of advertisers, audiences, publishers, photo agencies and photographers — is there a solution that benefits all constituents?


In order to better understand the differences between Stipple, Thinglink and Pixazza (now Luminate), ask yourself the following question: why would I or any web user intentionally mouseover photos?

Do you believe people mouseover photos to see pop-up ads that have nothing to do with the photo, or do people mouseover photos to find out who or what is in the photo?

At Stipple, we believe that the only reason audiences will interact with photos long-term is to perform a tactile search and to discover accurate information on what’s in the photo. Thinglink appears to share our perspective. Does accuracy matter? I suppose it depends on your audience and use case.

According to Pixazza / Luminate, they provide inaccurate ‘get the look’ tags because users cannot “afford” what celebrities are wearing. This obfuscates the actual reason they don’t provide accurate information. Pixazza / Luminate has not built the processes or technology to accurately identify the products, brands, prices, urls of products contained in photos. Pixazza / Lumninate’s in-accurate information leads to examples like this real-life:

David Jones department store put on an expensive fashion show and hired none other than Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr to present several lines. And it worked, as several leading publications ran stories featuring looks from his show. But on sites that use Pixazza / Luminate, David Jones value was largely destroyed. On those sites, mousing over David Jones’ department store images sends people to JC Penney to buy clothes from the brand Arizona — even though the story is clearly labeled *David Jones Fashion Show*. Obviously this is complete fail for David Jones, publisher and users.

At Stipple, we firmly believe that the act of mousing over a photo is a tactile search and users deserve and expect the same level of accuracy when mousing over a photo that they get when they perform a Google search. So when you mouse over say, Selena Gomez’s shoes, you’re going to find out what those shoes are first. IF those shoes are too expensive for you, THEN Stipple help you find a lower cost option. But before we show you anything else, Stipple is going to answer your question accurately.


Imagine for a moment if Google search behaved the way that Pixazza / Luminate and other so-called in-image advertisers perform. You’d search for say:

When you input that search, you’d expect to see search results that look something like this:

But instead of showing you the above results, Google says, “we know you can’t afford these shoes“and makes the determination to show you a search results page that looks like this instead:

If you believe, like we do at Stipple, that tactile search / discovery are the only reasons users will intentionally mouseover images long-term, then solutions like Stipple and Thinglink offer viable solutions to the accuracy problem. If you believe that web users mouseover photos because they want to see link spam, unrelated information or don’t care what pops up, then Pixazza / Lumninate offers a viable solution for your use case.


Nearly all of the companies in the space variously cite similar statistics about the overwhelming number of images on the web (1 trillion plus) and the volume of images being added to the web each month (10 billion plus). Yet, with the exception of Stipple and Thinglink, none of the companies offer viable solutions to accurately tag the content of a single image, much less millions of images.

Stipple is the only company to address the problem of accurately tagging objects within multiple related images. While many businesses have attempted various solutions to the problems: computer vision, crowd sourcing and self-tagging (i.e. the person with the photo, tags their own photo). Each of these solutions fails for various reasons. Due to the advent in digital photography, albums of related images continues to grow rapidly, yet the ability to quickly tag the products does not exist.

A night out, a lookbook, product shots or a red carpet event might result in literally hundreds of images that contain the same products. And some number of those images may go on to live on hundreds or thousands of different websites. Without tools to tag all of those images quickly, accurately and painlessly, the sheer volume of images will always outstrip our ability to tag them.

Is Tom Cruise wearing a burgundy blouse? Pixazza / Luminate fails to tag images accurately altogether. Further, Pixazza / Luminate fails to tag the same products uniformly from one site to another. You can literally find Pixazza / Luminate instances where the same product is tagged differently from one photo to the next.

Thinglink only offers the ability to tag each image by hand, product-by-product, picture-by-picture, like all of the little dots in the above image. Need to tag 500 red carpet photos or 50 family pics from your boating trip last weekend? It’s going to be a long night using ThingLink. And as we’ll discuss in the next section, after you’ve taken the time to tag all 50 pictures by hand, the next website to use any of those pictures will need the same tags added all over again.

Manual, laborious, slow tagging isn’t the way the web works. This also isn’t the way images / events build large online audiences. Different sites might run different images of Nicole Kidman in the same dress over the course of the evening. Using Pixazza / Luminate would route audiences to Macy’s or Target for a knock off and users of Thinglink would be forced to label every image by hand.

Tag an image accurately once in Stipple and our technology will automatically tag that object in every other photo that contains that product in our database. We do this by machine, we do this in seconds and we do it accurately. So a single accurate tag spreads itself wherever that product is found in other photos. Users of our technology can tag 5 pictures and cause another 200 images to be accurately tagged with exact product placements. Wherever those 200 pics go, our tags will follow.


Once you’ve tagged a single image accurately and then tagged all the photos related to it, either by hand or using Stipple, then the final problem presents itself: Images don’t build audiences by sitting on one website. They build audiences by moving throughout the web. Thinglink and Pixazza / Luminate essentially built their products for a the tags to live on a single web site. The moment the image moves to another site, both services degrade quickly. As an example, imagine taking a friend-tagged photo from Facebook and putting it on your Tumblr. Will the friend tag follow the photo? Absolutely not. Our competitors solutions behave just like Facebook tags, they’re stuck on a single site.

Here again Pixazza / Luminate offers no actual solution beyond link spam. Want to read a story about Rihanna in Paris? Pixazza / Luminate will cover up the story to show you a movie preview for Brides Maids on one site and ads for Best Buy on another. Pixazza / Luminate views images as real estate for banner ads and puts whatever they want on top of images, irrespective of context. Even if another site uses Pixazza / Luminate’s javascript and uses exactly the same photo, that photo will contain no information other than link spam until their “crowdsourcers” tag the photo again.

Thinglink offers a partial solution to this problem: embed codes. If publishers are willing to break their existing publishing workflows and use the Thinglink embed codes for image publishing, Thinglink can distribute information with a single image from site to site. But this fails for all publishers unwilling / unable to use their embed codes or unwilling to display exactly the same image that appears on other websites. This fails for publishers that want to put the image in a photo gallery. This fails for all publishers that don’t source images on the sites of other publishers. This fails for the image rights holders whose content is being illicitly re-distributed via embed codes.

Stipple offers the web’s only solution for distributing accurate information on top of photos wherever the images goes, throughout our network. In the above example, if any of the 2,000 publishers in our network uses the photo on their site (without embed codes, flash or other gimmicks) the tags will instantly appear on the image when published, even if the image is photo shopped, resized, turned black & white or put into a photo gallery. Stipple not only ensures that the image tag stays with the image wherever it goes, we persist proper attribution information and ensure that the rights holders, celebrities and publishers earn money as the photo is used commercially throughout the web. Every site using the above image would earn a ratable share of the $22,000 ad campaign in the image.

Stipple does this using web standards and it works in all browsers – web & mobile – even lowly IE 6 without plugins, embed codes or other gimmicks. Tag your photos in Stipple and those tags will stay with it on every site in our network. Publish a Stipple’d photo and earn money as your audience engages. License photos through Stipple and earn money wherever it goes.


Stipple is the only company to build an image advertising platform that includes the demand, supply and discovery sides of the image ecosystem.

1. Images. We are the only company to actually license editorial images and allow users to upload their own images for tagging and syndication throughout the advertising network. In the 4 months since launch we’ve received over 575,000 editorial images, plus over 200,000 additional sports images and and additional 250,000 plus advertisers’ images in the system. Stipple allows users to upload their images as well as tag editorial images that have been properly licensed. *Neither Pixazza / Luminate or Thinglink properly license any images and enable commercial tags / distribution of those photos in violation of the image license agreements.* Stipple protects the interests of the hard-working creative professionals that produce image content.

2. Products / Inventory. We allow brands to connect and manage product and inventory feeds in the system. This also enables us to verify accurate products.

3. Campaigns. We allow brands to manage campaigns in real-time, Ad Words style. Set budgets, time tables, spends, bids, payment methods and media types all from a simple, self-serve web interface.

4. Data. Stipple provides brands with real time performance data on their products from multiple concurrent sites.

Stipple has additional product announcements forthcoming next week, 9/8 which will only serve to further sharpen the distinction between the three service offerings. Essentially we believe that putting ads on photos without accuracy or context is a problem that no one actually wants solved. We believe that people would like to be able to get accurate information from photos and advertisers would like to turn images into points of sale when their products are in those images. We believe that we’ve built the only platform to scably serve those needs, respect the rights of the ecosystem and not spam web users.



Modern Furniture: DoubleButter

Denver-based manufacturer DoubleButter burst into the furniture scene with ready-to-order stylized designs with a mid-century modern flare. You can mix and match color schemes, or even have certain designs upholstered in brown or black cowhide, like the chic Grasshopper Lounge Chair below! Scroll down for a look at their funky designs, which are Stippled in case your home is in need to a makeover!

West Hollywood Boutique: Tenoversix

When you make your way down Melrose in West Hollywood, you come across this slick boutique Tenoversix, your one-stop-shop for modern couture with a rock n’roll flare. You might find the need to mix a funky pair of Alexander Wang booties with a Pamela Love Moon Cuff, who knows? But if you aren’t one of the lucky ones to call West Hollywood home, you can feast your eyes on the Tenoversix wares, and even shop if you feel inclined! Have a look:

You like?

20×200: A Jen Bekman Project

20×200: A Jen Bekman Project is a snazzy way to spruce up the walls of your home with fabulous artwork. Her concept is based around the idea that you should be able to buy art at an affordable price – she says “It’s art for everyone” – and the pieces start at the bargain price of $20 for the smallest size, an 8×10. Sizes go as large as 30×40. The amazing part about  the project is that the artists are tightly curated and are very prolific in their area of expertise, so you walk away with something that will retain value. All prints are in limited edition runs, museum quality and artist supervised, signed and numbered with a certificate of authenticity.

For this post, we selected a few of the photography pieces from 20×200, which we Stippled, so you can see all of the artist information as well as the pricing for all of the different sized prints. Enjoy!

John Fluevog: Unique Shoes for Unique Souls

Meet Denny Garbuio – manager of John Fluevog in the Haight Ashbury – where you find unique soles for unique souls. We love the color decisions and timeless design in this year’s styles, combined with the classic look synonymous with the John Fluevog brand. We have Stippled the different shoe styles with product dots, so you can shop seamlessly once you find the shoe for you – with just the scroll of the mouse. Happy shopping!

Treasure Island Music Festival

Treasure Island Music Festival – located on the island in San Francisco that connects the Bay Bridge – brings out spectacular bands, ranging from indie to electronic, a ferris wheel, an enthusiastic crowd of music lovers, a party, and an overall vibe that screams San Francisco. We love being a part of the action! Below are some pics of the festival that have been Stippled, which enables you to see details about the bands, the photographer’s credit, and any other information that the photographer may have added to the metadata. This is an incredibly powerful tool for professional photographers, because once the metadata is added to the images, it will automatically show up when published with just the scroll of the mouse. For example, if you scroll over the “Explore” box on the right, the photo’s metadata appears, with all of the relevant information about the image. In the photo below, the info tells you that you are looking at Zooey Deschanel of She & Him at Treasure Island Music Festival, and the image is copyrighted to Abby Wilcox. We have included captions as well, along with social media and info dots, so you can see the bands’ tweets in real time as well as click on their info, which takes you directly to their websites. Check out the compelling images below, and also have a look at the Stipple info to get a better idea of how the technology works:

People Dots and Privacy

Have you tried out the new People Dots feature yet? Our last post covered the benefits of our newest feature – which gives you the ability to label pictures of friends and public figures with their social profile from Twitter or Facebook. When we created People Dots we thought carefully about the implications of making it possible to bring social tags to the open web – beyond the walls of social networks – and we tried to anticipate the concerns publishers and their site visitors might have when it comes to privacy.

We started by honoring the privacy guidelines already set out by Twitter and Facebook. When a site visitor mouses over an image containing People Dots, the visitor can only see publicly the available social networking information of the person labeled in the photo. In practice, this means that even if a person using Stipple is your friend on Facebook or your follower on Twitter, but that person has protected their Tweets or restricted the views of their Facebook profile, then Stipple will not display information that they’ve chosen to keep private. Here’s a full description of how we designed People Dots with an eye on safeguarding privacy:


If Stipple user John wants to tag Christina in a photo, then John must be Christina’s friend on Facebook in order to label her using Stipple.  If Christina is not John’s friend on Facebook, then John cannot use Stipple to label Christina with her Facebook profile. Likewise, if you want to connect a People Dot to someone’s Facebook account, you first must be friends with that person on Facebook.


Twitter has a different privacy model than Facebook. On Facebook, the process of ‘friending’ is two-way; someone must request a friend connection and the other party must approve it.  On Twitter, the process of following is one-way. If your Tweets are public, a person need only ‘follow’ or use one of many tools available to view your updates.  For these reasons, if John simply follows Christina on Twitter, he can tag her in a photo with a People Dot using her Twitter account.

Consider adding People Dots with Twitter profile info to your images that feature celebrities or public figures, since they are already sharing their updates with a wide audience and you can bring that directly to your site visitors. We hope you’ll imagine new ways to use Stipple. For example, if you have a food blog or website and post an image of Anthony Bourdain, you can give your visitors a bonus by adding a Stipple People Dot with his latest updates. Maybe add a dot to that tasty snack you featured on your site from a local bakery or a dot with social updates for that pic you snapped of your favorite band?

Opting Out

Lastly, if a person has been labeled in a photo, they have the option of removing the People Dot.  Clicking “view all” in the bottom right of their People Dot will take that person to a page where they can manage all photos in which they’ve been labeled, including the option to delete.

Hopefully this goes without saying, but we value open conversations with our user community and hope to improve our products with your feedback. Let us know what you think about the People Dots feature and privacy by weighing in here.

Introducing People Dots: Label Your Friends, It’s Just That Simple

If you use Facebook or Flickr, you probably enjoy tagging people in the photos you upload. It’s a fun way to share your experiences with your friends and family and add additional info to your photos.

But what if you want to host your photos outside those networks, on your own site or blog? You have more control over design and experience, but the tradeoff is it’s more difficult to interact with the people in the photos.

Let’s say you have a photo blog where you’ve uploaded pictures of you and some new friends you made on a camping trip. Now you want to reconnect and let them know you’ve added some pictures of them. What were all their email addresses again…? Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just tag your friends in those photos and have them notified automatically?

Starting today, we’re introducing People Dots, a feature that let’s you do just that. Just connect your Stipple account with Twitter and/or Facebook and add Stipple to your site (if you haven’t already). Next time you upload photos, you’ll be able to use our inline editor to quickly label your friends. Their dot will show their name with a link to either their Facebook profile or Twitter account – you decide. There’s even an auto-complete feature that pulls from your list of friends, making it even easier and faster to add dots. And if you select Twitter, Stipple automatically brings up the person’s latest tweet in the dot box.

After you’ve labeled your friends with People Dots, we’ll add a post to your Facebook feed or create a new tweet on your Twitter account, including a mention of the person dotted. Of course, this default behavior can be disabled on your account page if you don’t want notifications to be sent – the point is, you’re in control.

At Stipple, we believe that tagging of people shouldn’t be limited to walled-gardens and that publishers large and small should be able to better engage with their readers and friends through photos. We think you’ll find People Dots to be a fun way to interact with your online community and increase the number of visits to your site.

Making Annotations Work

“Fast is better than slow”, one of the Ten things (Google) knows to be true concludes that users prefer the fastest, simplest method. We at Stipple wonder, if this principle holds (and we believe it does), why have annotations, a tool designed to make discovery faster, largely failed to gain wide user acceptance?

What are annotations? They’re in use everywhere on the web today — Facebook people tags, hyper-linked green words on news sites and the word boxes atop many of your favorite YouTube videos. Annotations are supposed to quickly and easily give context to images, videos and other content, saving a user time and eliminating guess work. Though widely in use and designed to save time, many users find annotations products annoying and spend more time shutting off and avoiding them rather than using them.

We believe in the promise of annotation, yet tremendous tension between current annotation products and web users. So, we set out to build Stipple as the fastest, friendliest way to label and view the content of pictures on the web.

Our early thoughts on annotations done right:

1.Manners: For annotations to become a well-liked tool on the web, they will need to ‘learn their place’ and stop being impolite — to speak only when spoken to. If a user wants to reveal information, then the annotation should react quickly and display relevant and useful information, but only if the user has initiated the display of the annotation.

2. Go away (as fast as you came): Annotation products all seem to appear super fast, requiring nothing more than a brief touch of the annotated object with your cursor. Getting rid of annotations seems to be another matter. Annotations which open windows that can only be closed with a mouse click, are asymmetrical and a poor way to treating web users. Let the reader control the label and close the window when a reader moves their mouse away.

3. Remember, you’re a guest (on someone’s site): Annotations live on publishers’ web properties. Annotation products need to be ‘good guests’ — don’t spam, brand or unnecessarily clutter a publisher’s site.

4. Private people use the public web: Stipple, like all web services, learns a lot of information about user behavior via their interaction with photos. We will be great web citizens and are committed to protecting the personally identifying information of our users.

5. Stop Selling and add value Like the worst of used car salesmen, most annotations are always trying to sell you something rarely allowing you to just look around and discover. There’s tons of content in photos that needs to be revealed and a lot of it has nothing to do with a product or an advertiser. Not only are we okay with that, we support it. Stipple provides value-added services for photo labels, including captions and information labels today. We have a bunch of features coming soon that have nothing to do with commerce, rather providing great to tools for publishers and photographers.

Well-executed labels provide information, utility and an enjoyable user experience. This is how we envisioned and ultimately built Stipple. We welcome each of you to join the conversation and help us do our small part to build a better, richer web.