WordPress Openverse: The Openly-licensed Media Search Engine for All

Openverse is a search engine that allows you to search for openly licensed content. This might seem familiar because this is the exact function of Creative Commons Search or more popularly known as CC Search. CC Search was launched by Creative Commons back in 2019. But later on, it was migrated to WordPress thus creating Openverse.

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization and a global network whose sole purpose is to expand the horizon of creative works. It is a platform that inspires people to share their creativity and knowledge, enabled by a set of open copyright licenses. CC Search is a product of their vision. After being integrated with the large community of WordPress, CC Search became Openverse.

History of Openverse

The WordPress community has always been a supporter of GPL-compatible resources. For this reason, they have supported Creative Commons as they have done good work on open content licenses. Creative Commons was first launched back in 2019. CC Search had an average of 300,000 monthly visitors who searched for CC-licensed content that they can use and share. 

CC Search made its first debut as a prototype in February 2017. Back then, its main purpose was image discovery. When it got great reviews, they moved into the beta version in September 2018. With a new design and a lot more providers, CC Search shifted its focus on content reuse in March 2019. After just a month, in April, another update was released with over 300 million images. In January 2020, CC Search launched its extension for all major browsers.

In May 2020, Creative Commons celebrated their 1 year anniversary. But later that year, in December, they put CC Search in maintenance mode.

In the earlier part of 2021, Creative Commons decided to shut down CC Search. Being a long supporter of Creative Commons, Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress couldn’t let that happen. That is when they decided to integrate CC Search with WordPress.org and create Openverse. Now the open search product of Creative Commons has found a new home in WordPress.org. With the continued support of the vast team of WordPress.org, we might be looking at a promising future for Openverse.

How Openverse works

Openverse uses open APIs and Common Crawl dataset and searchers across 500+ million images. It collects results from numerous public repositories and brings those results into a single catalog. It also has machine-generated tags and one-click attribution to assist in using and sharing the content.

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Using Openverse you can search for images, audios, and videos. For audios and videos, Openverse uses a search method known as meta search. It allows a broad discovery of audio and videos. In the future, you can expect additional content such as texts. The ultimate goal of Openverse is to provide access to all 1.4 billion (and more) CC licensed and public domain content on the internet. The code of Openverse, Openverse API, and Openverse Catalogue are open source.

Why should you use Openverse?

In the simplest way, Openverse gives you access to online content (images, audios, videos, etc.) and the license details. With that, you can use and share those content on your own project accordingly.

You might be wondering, then what’s the difference between Openverse and Google search? Because you can do a similar thing on Google search right? Well, the answer is yes. You can get all those information on Google search. You can use Google filters to get images for commercial reuse and modification, but keep in mind, it’s still the open Google Image Search. If you are looking for proper citations of those contents, it’s difficult to get from a Google search.

An experiment was carried out on 8th-grade students by their teacher Ben Rimes. In order to make his students understand the importance of CC Search, he created 3 questions. These questions were:

  • Who took the photo or owns it?
  • What website did it come from?
  • Do you have permission to use it?

Then he divided the class into smaller groups and tasked them to find an image of a playground but also answer the questions mentioned above. The students were using Google search and the fastest time was 56 seconds. While some students couldn’t find the answers even after 3 minutes.

Mr. Rimes then introduced the CC Search to the students. Then told them to do the task again. Now, the fastest time the students solved this problem was 29 seconds. All other groups finished the task in under 2 minutes 30 seconds.

As you can see, using the CC Search is much more effective than a normal Google Search. If you want all the legal information. Then CC Search is your choice.

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How to use Openverse

If you want to use open licensed content from Openverse then do the following:

  • Search
  • Download and use on your site
  • One-click attribute
  • Done!

Yes! It’s that simple. Now, you have access to over 300 million open licensed contents and you can attribute the creator with just one click. This reduces a lot of work and simplifies our daily task. Let’s look a bit furter and see how simple it is to use Openverse.

Step 1: Search

Go to Openverse and search for the image you are looking for. Right below the search bar, you will find the option to filter commercially usable or generally usable images. If you leave this unchecked, the search engine will not filter out anything. In our case, we are looking for a model of a BMW car.

Step 2: Download and use images on your site

The next step is obvious. Just choose the image that you like and download it. Then use it on your WordPress site.

Openverse will also give you the option to go to the original website of the image.

Step 3: Credit the creator

There are 3 ways to give credit to the creator. You can use Rich Text which contains links, or you can use HTML or plain text. We are using the rich text here. Just hit the ‘Copy’ button and past it into your WordPress image caption.

See how quick and easy it was? Currently, there are images, audio, and videos on Openverse. Soon you can expect more content.

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Conclusion

Whenever you are working on your projects whether it’s a school project or for work, citation is very important. This is where you need Openverse the most. Because it gives you a vast number of contents and also gives you the legal details. Now you can use, modify, and share these contents accordingly without any worries. 

However, this is just the first important step. There are still many challenges ahead. But we do believe that in time Openverse will become stronger and continue what Creative Commons started years ago.


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