An image retrieval system is a computer system for browsing, searching and retrieving images from a large database of digital images. Most traditional and common methods of image retrieval utilize some method of adding metadata such as captioning, keyword (internet search)|keywords, or descriptions to the images so that retrieval can be performed over the annotation words. Manual image annotation is time-consuming, laborious and expensive; to address this, there has been a large amount of research done on automatic image annotation. Additionally, the increase in social web applications and the semantic web have inspired the development of several web-based image annotation tools.The first microcomputer-based image database retrieval system was developed at MIT, in the 1980s, by Banireddy Prasaad, Amar Gupta, Hoo-min Toong, and Stuart Madnick.
A 2008 survey article documented progresses after 2007.