Google made a simple but profound change to the way that search results are delivered to you from the Google search page. It changes the world in a small but significant way.

You will now get two things while you type:

  • Predictions of what you’re most likely to be looking for, appearing in light grey text in front of the cursor.
  • Instant search results for the most likely prediction, appearing below – and updating themselves instantly with every letter you type.

It’s absolutely remarkable. It will change the way you do your searches: either you’ll adjust what you’re typing on the fly, or you’ll see the search you really want listed on the dropdown list of possibilities and choose it without ever finishing what you were typing. Either way, you’re much less likely to have to click on the Search button or hit the Enter key.

Google describes it this way:

Here are a few of the core features in Google Instant:

  • Dynamic Results – Google dynamically displays relevant search results as you type so you can quickly interact and click through to the web content you need.
  • Predictions – One of the key technologies in Google Instant is that we predict the rest of your query (in light gray text) before you finish typing. See what you need? Stop typing, look down and find what you’re looking for.
  • Scroll to search – Scroll through predictions and see results instantly for each as you arrow down.

Google estimates that the new feature will cut an average of 2-5 seconds off the time needed for each and every search, which adds up to be an overwhelming amount of time saved by people doing their work and going about their lives. From today’s press event:

Users tend to spend 9 seconds on average entering a search query into Google, [Google vice president Marissa Mayer] said. After they hit the search button, the query spends an average of 300 milliseconds traversing Google’s servers before results hurtle back to the users, who spend an average of 15 seconds picking a selection from the results.

That’s almost half a minute from time of entry to result selection. Google Instant is an effort to shave time off the task by predicting what users are looking for as they type, bypassing the search button.

There is a fair amount of speculation about what this will mean for search results and for advertisers. One prominent blogger predicts that it will make current efforts at Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”) irrelevant. A Google engineer says, no, that’s overstated, but it will likely change the way SEO is done, although it’s too early to predict what that will mean. Another article suggests that “large companies or celebrities will probably make up much more of the searches, and smaller businesses or brands will have to be searched specifically to be found.”

It’s an impressive bit of engineering. Google used to serve up one set of search results when you hit the Search button. Now it’s serving up separate search results on the fly for every keystroke in the search window. That’s a huge increase in the amount of data being processed and moved to your screen.

Later this year Google plans to introduce the same feature on mobile phones, where typing takes longer, which may change the way we use our Internet browsers on those little tiny screens.

Interesting technology!



Loyal friends and clients: if you use Bruceb Favorites as your home page, you can get to Google’s search page with a single click on the Google logo next to the search bar. Go check it out!

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