With the explosive growth of the World Wide Web, the public is gaining access to massive amounts of information. However, locating needed and relevant information remains a difficult task, whether the information is textual or visual. Text search engines have existed for some years now and have achieved a certain degree of success. However, despite the large number of images available on the Web, image search engines are still rare. In this article, we show that in order to allow people to profit from all this visual information, there is a need to develop tools that help them to locate the needed images with good precision in a reasonable time, and that such tools are useful for many applications and purposes. The article surveys the main characteristics of the existing systems most often cited in the literature, such as ImageRover, WebSeek, Diogenes, and Atlas WISE. It then examines the various issues related to the design and implementation of a Web image search engine, such as data gathering and digestion, indexing, query specification, retrieval and similarity, Web coverage, and performance evaluation. A general discussion is given for each of these issues, with examples of the ways they are addressed by existing engines, and 130 related references are given. Some concluding remarks and directions for future research are also presented.