A Guide to Google Instant Search

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-09-09 Print this article Print

There is a lot flying around about Google Instant, the search engine's new streaming search technology, so I'm trying to put it all together with some links and catch some stat crumbs from the table.

Google Instant extends the Google Suggest capability by guessing users' queries as they begin to type them. Users needn't hit the enter button to see results. Each letter users type effectively is a query, surfacing results with each keystroke.

Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google, and her colleagues Sept. 8 unveiled Google Instant at MOMA in San Francisco.

Stat attack

At the event, Mayer noted that Google handles more than a billion searches a day and Google has a billion users a week. That's a lot of searching by a lot of searchers!

The 1 billion-users-per-week number is double the total user base of Facebook, which boasts 500 million users. Now if Google could only find a way to bring those users together in one big social network.

In 2009, Google rolled out more than 500 user interface and ranking changes to Google Search. In 2010, Google has already introduced more than 500 changes to its ranking and UI. Hmmm. Do you still not believe Bing is motivating Google much?

On the Instant Web page, Google adds these stats:

Instant Stats.png

That last stat is important because it underscores the value of the technology for the average user. Google search quality guru Matt Cutts extrapolated these stats:

With over a billion searches a day and over a billion users searching each week, that adds up to 350 million hours of user time saved a year. That's 500+ human lifespans saved a year by this feature if everyone used it.

Other things you should know:

Users of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Microsoft IE 8 Web browsers in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Spain should see Instant results now. Other geographies will be added later.

For those who have used Google Instant and are sick of it, just click the off switch to the right of the search box that you see after you begin typing a query:

Instant Turnoff.png

It's not on the homepage, though, something Google might want to consider for future revision.

One more point to make. Google Instant launched Sept. 8 for the desktop, but this search technology portends major implications for handheld devices with full HTML Web browsers such as Android smartphones and Apple's iPhone.

Typing on those gadgets is currently a chore and the combination of voice input technologies and Google Instant will be a major breakthrough. What carrier wouldn't want Google as the default search engine on its smartphone then?

GigaOm is concerned smartphones not connected to WiFi won't be able to handle Google Instant Mobile.

One way or another, it's going to happen because consumers will want the searching freedom associated with this technology.


Finally, what would a user guide be without links to, well, user guides and other fun stuff?

  • Search Engine Land has the best user guide I've seen, here.
  • Also check out Google Instant shortcuts from Google Operating System.
  • Google Hijacks Your Brain (Well, not really. But this is a nice, unique post from Marshall Kirkpatrick on ReadWriteWeb that Nicholas Carr would be remiss in not addressing).
  • Last but not least, I wrote earlier today on the impact Google Instant will have on SEO here.

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