Opinion

Google Images Needs To Properly Recognise London Bridge

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 8 months ago
Google Images Needs To Properly Recognise London Bridge

I want you to do something for me...

Search London Bridge on Google Images. Pray tell, what appears. Here's what I got.

Google Images search of London Bridge

An entire page filled with images of Tower Bridge. Ok that's not true, there is one photo of London Bridge in there. The first photo is of what I actually Googled, but to call it a photo is a little flattering.

This image from Wiki Commons, dates back to early Internet days of 2006 and, to put it mildly, the quality's not that great. Judge it for yourself.

London Bridge illuminated in red in the rain
Photo: burge5000 from WikiCommons

Firstly, the image is taken at night, highlighting the bridge's sinister red illuminations. Secondly, the conditions are completely grim. There are flecks of rain on the lens — and let's not even get started on image quality. Just compare it to all the images it sits alongside in that Google search. They all look like they've been taken on a DSLR, and then edited to the high heavens to make the bridge look as awesome as possible. Meanwhile the photo of London Bridge betrays an honesty, on both Wikipedia and Google's part. 'We think it's a bit crap, so here's a crap image of it.'

Look I know, I know. By the letter of the (murky world of) internet laws, we're not being lied to. Tower Bridge is technically a London bridge. But it's not the London Bridge. I even capitalised the L and the B in my search, to try and make my point clearer — not that Google cared.

I thought I'd found a photo of London Bridge... but then it turned out to be Waterloo Bridge instead. Photo: Robert Bye

Many of you are probably thinking: so what? It's just a Google Images search, how much does it really matter? Well, that first assumption is wrong. It's not just Google, as I was speeding around the search engines of stock image websites, my hunt for photos of London Bridge was disastrous. Shutterstock, Unsplash, it didn't matter where I looked, it was all Tower Bridge. And to add insult to injury, some images of Westminster Bridge show up before London Bridge.

But, I digress. Why is this so important? Well, people get confused. Foreigners frequently mis-identify Tower Bridge as London Bridge, doing a disservice to them both. The mistake is so frequent, that it was the basis for a joke in recent mega-blockbuster Spider-Man Far From Home.

And London Bridge is important. The history of the city is tightly interwoven with the bridge — the Romans' prime reason for setting up shop in London originates from the bridge. It was the furthest point east they could build a river crossing. If it weren't for London Bridge, the country's capital might still be Colchester — and Colchesterist just doesn't have the same ring to it. It then played a vital part in the city's daily life in the medieval era.

A depiction of London Bridge from 1682

Meanwhile, Tower Bridge is magnificent, sure, and has its own fascinating history, but it only dates back to the late Victorian period, preceded by the Tower Subway.

London Bridge is the bridge of London. That might sounds like a ridiculous statement, but it's true. On the surface it looks like a simple bridge, but dig (please, not literally) a bit deeper and you'll discover a multifaceted history. Its an elemental beast — having burned down a couple of times, but was also a key factor in the Thames freezing over. One version of it got broken up and sent to Arizona, and nowadays there's a huge spike at the end of it that (maybe) represents its horrifically grisly past. Meanwhile Tower Bridge, while stunning, is rather more straightforward. Sure, its what tourists see, when they think of London, but not Londoners.

All I'm asking for, is that Google (as search engine market leader, and our probable overlords in 20 years time) properly shows London Bridge .

Last Updated 13 January 2020

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