Google Instant Provides Predictive Search

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-09-08

Google Instant Provides Predictive Search

Google Sept. 8 introduced a faster way of searching the Web with Google Instant, which surfaces search results as users type their queries.

Google Instant, which the company hinted at through a Sept. 7 Google Doodle made of bouncing balls, is a predictive search technology.

Where Google Suggest provides search suggestions when users type queries in the search box, Instant extends this capability by guessing users' queries as they begin to type them.

At a news event held to announce the technology at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience for Google, said Google Instant was designed to accelerate the search process for users.

Users tend to spend 9 seconds on average entering a search query into Google, 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.

As each query option surfaces, so do the results that accompany that query, with predictive next words of a query shaded in light gray.

Users needn't accept the top result offered in the search box; they may scroll up and down in the search box pull-down menu to select other Instant search results. Results change on the fly as users arrow up and down.

Mayer Demos Google Instant

To demo Google Instant, Mayer searched for the popular Henri Matisse painting "Woman with a Hat" at MOMA. She typed in "SFM" and saw predicted results for San Francisco's MOMA. She tabbed to type "woman" to look for the painting and saw results for "Woman With a Hat."

Mayer saved several keystrokes and seconds of time on the way to learning more about the Matisse work.

"We're actually predicting what query you're likely to do and giving you results for that," Mayer said. "We think this ultimately results in a much higher-quality experience, but there's even a psychic element of it in that we can actually predict what you're likely to type and bring you those results in real time."

Mayer said Google Instant will save the average searcher 2 to 5 seconds per search. Added up, Mayer said, Google Instant will save all its users combined a total of 11 hours per second.

The new tool will roll out to users of the Chrome, Firefox, Safari and IE 8 Web browsers in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom throughout the day.

Google Instant will roll out to all geographies and platforms in the coming months, with a version for smartphones and other mobile devices coming later in 2010.

Users may test Google Instant here in the meantime and learn more about this search service here. Users will be able to turn off the service by clicking a link on the search home page.

Google Instant is the sort of technology that ensures Google's commanding presence in the search market despite challengers such as Microsoft Bing and Yahoo, which have joined forces to combat Google.

"This will put pressure on Bing and Yahoo and Ask to provide an equivalent experience," IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds told eWEEK.

Google has 65 percent search market share in the United States, according to ComScore. Together, Bing and Yahoo claim roughly 28 percent of the market.

Rocket Fuel