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Why It's a Game Changer

Gordon Kelly


Google Instant: Game Changer or has the Game Changed?

Google may not have been the first search engine, but it has been by far the most successful. Since it launched on 15 September 1997 Google.com has become the most visited website on the Internet and receives more than a billion search requests per day. It is part of the modern lexicon: we don't search, we 'Google it' and if you are to believe the hype Google thinks this week it made the most significant advancement in its search technology to date...

On Wednesday evening saw the launch of Google Instant, based around three core elements:

  • 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 - 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.

As Google explains:

"The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way."

Watched in action (see video above) Google Instant is impressive, but it has drawn a mixed reaction from both users and critics so far. Why? I think I know...

Why It's a Game Changer

When Google says Instant is "pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure" that's no mean feat - more importantly though, it does look like the average user's search experience will improve. Real time feedback means searches can be refined as they are written rather than the previous suck-it-and-see approach and while Google likes to boast this "can save 2-5 seconds per search" the real benefit is it should lead to more useful results.

Furthermore Instant once again gives Google a significant differentiator. Yes we may not talk of 'Binging' things yet, but Microsoft has put a lot of time and money into its search engine and made strong gains. Instant also presents rivals with a problem: its dynamic results require huge server power and no-one has anywhere near Google's number of servers.

Other potential spin-offs include the time saving it could soon bring to the mobile space where shaving off seconds while on the move can actually make a difference, a comprehensive channel/combined IMDB-esque search assistant within Google TV and a radical overhaul to the search system within Gmail.

Then again...

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