Usually, a photographer has to pay great amounts of money to have his portfolio printed, and then pay for each additional picture he wants to add. With the Internet Boom and with offers, such as a free domain name upon a web hosting plan purchase and a 1-click script installer tool, it has become a child's play to create a new, professional looking image gallery, where one could store all of his photos in multiple albums. And adding new photos to the already existing ones is more than easy. And when speaking of image galleries, that's where the thumbnails kick in.
A is a scaled down version of an image. And while this doesn't seem like a big innovation, it has allowed the creation of professional looking image galleries. The smaller images allowed for more pictures to be displayed on a web page at the same time, arranged in a similar manner. At the same time, thumbnails were much easier to incorporate in a web page, given their small size. A thumbnail will almost always lead to the full-sized picture, opening it in a new window or a new tab, or as an image pop-up.
Thumbnail graphics have gained huge popularity with the wide distribution of advanced digital photography devices, and the new modern pictures sharing mechanisms. They are used in various device interfaces - cameras, portable media players, etc., as well as in web-based albums and image galleries.
Today, thumbnails are almost everywhere. The first place where you can see them is when you do an image search with a search engine. The results will be presented in the form of thumbnails, in order to allow for multiple results to be shown on each page.
The usage of thumbnails in search engines was subject of controversy when it first began. It also led to several legal cases in the U.S. which ended with a verdict in favor of the search engines.
Thumbnails are also extensively used in blogs and online news articles, which want to show a picture, but also have a limited space on the web page and can't show the complete picture. This allows for a single article to contain several photos at the same time, much like a newspaper article, but to also offer the images in full size.
Where the thumbnails have really shown their advantage is in the online image galleries. The use of thumbnails there is the actual reason for the popularity of the image galleries. They were used both as title images for the different image categories, and as smaller preview images in the actual category. Most of the modern online image galleries also have an integrated thumbnail creator, which will create a thumbnail for each uploaded picture.
Thumbnails, apart from their advantage of saving view space, are also very light on the monthly traffic of each website, since they are small in size. They are also light on disk space usage, again due to their very small size
Thumbnails are used on all operating systems, which sport a GUI (graphical user interface). Windows, Mac OS and Linux-based operating systems are using thumbnails for image previews in their respective file managers. This eases the file browsing process, since instead of watching each picture until you reach the one you need, now you can go straight to it.
In the newer versions of these desktop environments, folders with pictures in them employ a small thumbnail for the folder image to indicate that there are pictures in this folder.