Google Instant cost the search engine a lot of money to build, and it burns through a lot of hardware and software computing resources. But people like it, so it's going mobile this fall.
Google Instant, the predictive search technology the company launched
last month to serve users results without making
them hit the Enter button, is popular but costly.
Jonathan Rosenberg, Google's senior vice president for product management,
asserted on the company's third-quarter earnings call
Oct. 14 that not only was Instant not created to
help Google make more money, but that "from a resource standpoint, it's
actually pretty expensive."
Rosenberg also declined to
explain what resources triggered those costs, so eWEEK asked Google Oct. 15.
A company spokesperson confirmed that Google had purchased additional
computer servers to deliver the results, but declined to say how many new
machines and what the cost was to not only build Instant but keep it pumping out
queries with each tap of a keystroke as it does
"The cost of search has steadily increased over the years as we develop
new innovations to serve users," the spokesperson said. "We can't
give you a specific number of machines we've added to support this launch-other
than to say this is technically demanding for our infrastructure."
This is par for the course for Google, which has historically declined to
discuss how many servers it employs to fuel its data centers all over the
Hardware is hardly the only resources Google requires for Instant, which
serves an average of five to seven times more result pages for some queries.
The company uses some nifty software and packet traffic tricks. Those are a bit
For example, the Google spokesperson said Google is reducing demand on
servers by keeping the frame of the results page the same while dynamically
generating new results within that frame.
This is what keeps Google Instant appearing so smooth and seamless as results
appear and disappear from the screen with each keystroke. Google also built
systems to control the rate at which Instant shows results pages in proportion
to how relevant the pages are likely to be.
Also, the company's search infrastructure team deployed new server caches
that can handle high request rates while keeping results fresh as the search
algorithm crawls and reindexes the Web.
New client caches in Google's infrastructure include user-state data to
track results pages already shown to a given user so as not to this refetch the
same results. Read more about these complex infrastructure technologies here
Meanwhile, the Instant team is working hard to port the Instant technology
from the desktop to mobile devices. Rosenberg
said on the call that users can expect Instant to come to Google Android, RIM
BlackBerry and Apple's iPhone later this fall.
"It's relatively soon. Sometime this fall. Fall lasts a little longer
in California though," he