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Recent years have witnessed a number of studies on distance metric learning to improve visual similarity search in content-based image retrieval (CBIR). Despite their successes, most existing methods on distance metric learning are limited in two aspects. First, they usually assume the target proximity function follows the family of Mahalanobis distances, which limits their capacity of measuring similarity of complex patterns in real applications. Second, they often cannot effectively handle the similarity measure of multimodal data that may originate from multiple resources. To overcome these limitations, this paper investigates an online kernel similarity learning framework for learning kernel-based proximity functions which goes beyond the conventional linear distance metric learning approaches. Based on the framework, we propose a novel online multiple kernel similarity (OMKS) learning method which learns a flexible nonlinear proximity function with multiple kernels to improve visual similarity search in CBIR. We evaluate the proposed technique for CBIR on a variety of image data sets in which encouraging results show that OMKS outperforms the state-of-the-art techniques significantly.