Meet the Openverse

Openverse is a new offering from the people who brought you WordPress. It’s a sharing platform for images and audio right now, though there are signs that they might add other types of content in the future.

This is part of one of the Big Picture Goals for WordPress: “Support open source alternatives for all site-building necessities.” Openverse used to be CC Search, a Creative Commons project. Last year, WordPress agreed to take on stewardship of the project. “Creative Commons exists to do for media,” Matt Mullenweg explained, “what open source has done for code.”

Unlike stock photo sites like Adobe’s or free picture sites like Pixabay, Openverse includes only images licensed under Open Source licenses like Creative Commons.

How good is Openverse?

Openverse is a good deed, but is it a good source of images? Can you shift to Openverse for your everyday image needs?

When we first checked out Openverse, we did a quick search for the things we need a steady supply of pictures for. In most cases, there were no available images. Now, a month later, we found 10,000 or more for most of those topics.

The quality of the images varies. That’s open source. And it’s also a subjective claim, so you may see it differently.

The usefulness of the search function also varies. It’s great for a search of landscape shots of Puerto Rico. When I searched for a picture of a lonely old person for a post I was writing about the impact of loneliness on Alzheimer’s Disease (it triples the chances of developing dementia, if you’re curious), I got a fairly random collection of items.

It’s not going to be as fast or as predictable in its results as going to Adobe’s stock photo site and buying what you need. However, it seems to me that it’s worth using — and uploading your photos to, as well. It’s a project worth supporting. 

How Openverse works

Click on an image in the gallery and you will see a screen with the image ready to download, plus information on the creator and the license, as well as the details you’ll need for attribution.

Scroll down and you will find some additional sources of images, some of which were new to me.

For example, Nappy has lots of images of Black models, who can be hard to find good images for even on commercial stock photo sites. The quality and positive nature of the photos is impressive.

Back to Openverse. You do not have to attribute the photos you use. However, you are encouraged to do so, and Openverse makes it easy.

WordPress hopes to integrate Openverse into WordPress sites further, allowing people to choose images directly from their dashboards. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s a great idea.

In the meantime, head over to Openverse and check it out!

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