A new kind of image search is being launched today by Riya, which will allow users to search for images using both text and images as queries.

Other image searches rely on text queries, which depend on the data attached to the image file. This is not necessarily a reliable way to search, which is where Like.com comes in.

And boy, the technology is stunning…

Rather than working to improve the text labels for each picture, Like.com approaches the problem from a different angle by allowing a mixture of text and images in the search query.

Like.com compares a ‘visual signature’ for the query image to possible image results; 10,000 datapoints are used to create this signature. When you click on a photo of an item Like.com will compare that item’s shape, colour, and texture to millions of other items found on the Web and display the best matches.

Do consumers need Like.com?

The company is focusing to begin with on identifying celebrity fashion items, which may help generate buzz among early adopters / Paris Hilton disciples. The site is initially launching only for shoes, jewellery, handbags and clothing.

If, for instance, you enter an image of a watch, Like.com will return similar images with prices and details form online retailers, including Amazon and Lands’ End. This is presumably how it will generate revenue, going forward.

All of which is great, if a little niche, but it is early days for the company.

Nevertheless, CEO Munjal Shah believes Like.com will revolutionise image searching:

“Like.com is the first major new innovation to come to the world of image search in the last five years. Now, Web searchers will no longer have to rely on the tags that may or may not be attached to a given photo or product image.”

He might be right. We’ll be watching closely – certainly this appears to be innovative. But the success of Like.com will be determined by the company’s ability to broaden its scope.

Like.com parent company Riya has raised $19.5 million from venture and private equity investors, including Bay Partners, BlueRun Ventures, and Leapfrog Ventures.

Image search accounts for 8% of all web searches, with Google and Yahoo receiving over 270 million image searches per month, according to Hitwise.