Google launches "Google Instant"

A big press event today from Google: the launch of "Google Instant," described as "a new search enhancement that shows results as you type."

We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.
More here about the new service, on Google. Coverage: Wired News, CNET, Gizmodo.

What fun might we have with this? A "Google Instant" alphabet, charting what term results when one types in each leter of the alphabet? Numbers, too: "4" is for 4chan.


  1. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.

    Google is assuming in me skills that I do not possess.

  2. Nice, it works well! I think it won’t be very long for the other major search engines (search engine?) to follow suit. It will seem so obvious and intuitive in just a few weeks.

    @snakedart: If you’re the kind of person that needs to hunt and peck to find each key, this will still save you time — much more time, in fact. Just glance up every two or three letters and see if your result is already showing.

    1. Hunt and peck? Please. I type very fast. But I’m not in the habit of pausing every couple of letters or so to see what sort of magic the internets have conjured. This seems like the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Which is what Google excels at creating most of the time.

  3. I don’t like it. I type fast. Really fast. This thing slows down while I’m typing. I could have typed the whole entry and hit enter by the time it lets me put the second word in.

    They need to make it faster or I don’t see the point of it, after all it’s also entirely possible that I’ll need several words to find what I’m looking for. So why would I first try the slower “instant” method?

  4. So glad they have an off switch for it.

    Call me old fashion, but I don’t dig it. Results popping up in between key strokes distracts me from what im typing. I don’t care that the links it finds will more than likely be what I am looking for…I don’t need it searching for me til I am ready.

    also…get off my lawn.

  5. Yay, let’s eat up all my bandwidth by searching for parts of words! This is great, I always wanted to load fifty unrelated searches while I type!

    Between this, the overwhelmingly useless “everything sidebar”, the eye-bleedingly-bad google images redesign, the useless javascript fadein that makes it so I can’t click images or news etc without clicking in the search box and waiting two seconds for it to fade in, and every other “improvement” google has made in the past 10 years, I’m looking for a different search engine.

    I wish they’d stop adding useless eyecandy, and instead actually fix their fucking search algorithm. Over the years they’ve slowly added more and more natural language interpretation, adding “ing” and pluralizing your search terms, so searching for “program” also searches for “programming”, “programme” and “programmed” etc. They used to have an implied AND between each word, so every result will have every word in your query. They’ve changed that, so even if you put a plus in front of every word, it will still provide results without that word in it. (the infamous “These terms only appear in links pointing to this page” that plagues me on a daily fucking basis, making it completely fucking impossible to search through thousands of pages of stuff that DOESN’T include any of my search terms whatsoever)

    Yeah, but this makes perfect sense. People want to see flashy useless information that’s irrelevant to their search. Way to go google. You used to be cool.

  6. I hate that c**p. Slows you down, more importantly I don’t actually want to send information on every keystroke I make to Google, unencrypted!

    What if I accidentally type a password in the box – even if I don’t hit the search button, I’m screwed.

  7. Well that’s a bummer. Trying to beat the Google suggestions dropdown with my typing speed has long been a way for me to keep my speed and touch skills up.

  8. I thought they already did that? Just type in ‘why’ or ‘how’ or ‘Justin Bieber’ and laugh at the most searched terms with it

  9. I don’t understand. I thought Google already does this. It does it when I use for Safari and has been for longer than I can remember.

  10. I just tried each letter of the alphabet on

    24 out of 26 letters chose well known companies – mainly retailers. ‘q’ didn’t return any results at all and ‘w’ assumed you were looking for ‘weather’.

    The commercial domination is interesting.

    Here’s the list, by the way:

    a – argos
    b – bbc
    c – currys
    d – debenhams
    e – ebay
    f – facebook
    g – google maps
    h – hotmail
    i – itv
    j – john lewis
    k – klm
    l – lotto
    m – msn
    n – next
    o – o2
    p – paypal
    q –
    r – rightmove
    s – sky
    t – tesco
    u – utube
    v – virgin
    w – weather
    x – xbox
    y – youtube
    z – zara

  11. I hope it’s not as annoying as it is where they use it in Google Maps–as I type in addresses it suggests things that I might want in that field, instead of things I’ve entered before. I live in Ohio, I don’t need to know there are similar addresses in Denver and Toronto….

  12. @blueelm: “I don’t like it. I type fast. Really fast. This thing slows down while I’m typing.”

    Hmmm, odd. I tried it on my browser (Chrome on a MacBook) and it didn’t slow down the typing at all. I type very fast, and I could type and hit enter at just the same rate, and didn’t see any lag. For longer queries, it actually shortened the response time, because by the time I hit enter most of the page had finished loading, so it didn’t have to do a full reload.

    @Alex_M “I hate that c**p. Slows you down, more importantly I don’t actually want to send information on every keystroke I make to Google, unencrypted! What if I accidentally type a password in the box – even if I don’t hit the search button, I’m screwed.”

    Um, I hate to break it to you, but almost every search query box already does this. How do you think the search suggestions that appear in Google or Bing or Ask work?

    @snakedart: Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you. I was simply interpreting what you meant by “Google is assuming in me skills that I do not possess.” I would have assumed that if you could touch-type then you could look at the screen while typing.

  13. The results appear to have something to do with your location. I’m in the US:

    A is for Amazon, to get all your books.
    B is for Bank of America, which holds all your crooks.
    C is for Craigslist, no services adult.
    D is for Dictionary, to define your result.
    E is for eBay, to spend all your cash.
    F is for Facebook, web pages like trash.
    G is for Gmail, world domination ambition.
    H is for Hotmail, Gmail’s competition.
    I is for Ikea, for a lamp named Bljampäjese.
    J is for Johns Hopkins, where they cure your disease.
    K is for Kohl’s, a store that’s old-school.
    L is for Lowe’s, to buy your tool.
    M is for MapQuest, for the place you go to.
    N is for Netflix, to add to your queue.
    O is for Orioles, a Baltimore obsession.
    P is for Pandora, an audio digression.
    Q is for QVC, for goods without esteem.
    R is for Ravens, another Baltimore team.
    S is for Sears, appliances and more.
    T is for Target, a Wal-Mart like store.
    U is for USPS, where mail you submit.
    V is for Verizon, Steve Jobs should use it.
    W is for Weather, for forests in flames.
    X is for Xbox, a console for games.
    Y is for Yahoo, a home page for Chrome.
    Z is for Zillow, to value your home.

    1. Good show, Robert!

      I happen to keep most of my crooks at OneWest Bank, but god knows BofA has even more of ’em.

      I chortled. Thank you for the effort, sir.

  14. You can see if you’re actually using instant if you turn off autocomplete. I think what a lot of people are assuming to be the new search is just autocomplete doing its work.

  15. I glanced at the headline and thought it said that Google had launched a new service named ‘Google Insult’. I was wondering what the angle was…

  16. I don’t get why people are pouring so much haterade on this. I use Chrome and it hasn’t slowed down my searches even though I type relatively fast. It’s not that different from the “autocomplete” that already existed before.

  17. Annoying when searching for ‘two year pocket planner’ Would pause and hang for a second or two..But my connection isn’t all that fast anyway.

    ‘ham sandwich’ worked as it always has however…

  18. People seem to be mistaking the auto-fill in the search box for the instant search results.

    One is old and gives you a drop-down from the input box suggesting things you might be trying to type.

    The other is new, and returns a page of search results based on what you’ve typed, but before you hit enter.

  19. Yeah, the text box doesn’t slow down for search results. Rather, it searches on any pauses in typing, so if you slam keys quickly, it won’t search anything till you stop. So someone’s either lying or using a *really* slow computer.

    Also the bandwidth is minuscule.

  20. This happens on an Apple computer when you use search in any window. It worked best in Panther, because it worked very, very fast. In Tiger, it slowed down. I guess it’s fine as long as it doesn’t slow things down, because I liked the way it worked in Panther.

  21. 1. “These terms only appear in links pointing to this page.” Yeah, great.

    2. Enter “chemical formula for quinine” and get 8 billion “results” including every linkfarm on the planet AND “Quinine nurses lesbian blowjobs. As you hang Mongolian forget down books…”. Perfect.

    C’mon, Google, ditch the eye-candy-for-‘tards and give me a SEARCH ENGINE!!!!!!!! If you just want to annoy everybody with a 3-digit IQ AND keep the ‘tards happy, it would be cheaper to build a giant laser and burn your logo into the moon.

    Oh, God, NO! Forget I said that!!

  22. How about Google just fixes the search algorithm so you get good search results again. The current algorithm has been rendered useless by text farms.

  23. This would be great for long complex searches where I’m constantly refining my search, adding and removing keywords until I get something I want. In those rare cases it would be a timesaver. However, for the majority of searches it’s a complete waste. Sometimes the auto-complete is helpful, but otherwise I’m not looking for search results on partly typed words. Also if I’m on my laptop using a wireless 3G and paying for every bit of bandwidth I don’t want to add to it, even if the bandwidth is small.
    Thankfully, there’s an off button to turn it off and only use it for those rare complex searches.

  24. At first I was really startled, because I didn’t know in advance, just typed et voilà, stuff came up.

    Then it felt a little creepy.

    Now I’m really liking the stuff, especially the little I feel lucky right next to the suggestions in the drop down box.

    But I’m just a simpleton who likes shiny flashy stuff anyway.

  25. This is presented as being about improving the user experience. Quite possibly: but I think there is also a useful income benefit to Google, which comes at the expense of medium-scale companies, and which makes life even tougher for small companies.

    I am pretty sure that more people enter search terms from the general to the specific than vice versa: people enter “Kitchen Worktops in Coventry” more than they enter “Coventry Kitchen Worktops”.

    By serving results before the customer has finished typing, Google are encouraging more people to act on a broad search term rather than a specific one.

    That hands a gift to national/international operators whose sites make it onto the front page of broad-term results on an organic basis.

    So far, that’s not worth anything to Google. But everyone else will find themselves competing for the same few broad search terms, which will result in the auction price zooming up. That does make a difference to Google.

    It will make life more expensive for mid-scale operators, who will end up spending more on Google if they want to keep their traffic flowing. But it might have even bigger impact on smaller players.

    A small hotel in Coventry might have featured well on “Hotel in Coventry” – or might have been able to afford to buy a Sponsored Link for “Hotel in Coventry”. But with Google Instant, they will see a proportion of those searchers being tempted away by the listings that appear as soon as they have typed “Hotel”. That small hotel will not have a hope of a front-page organic listing for “Hotel”. Nor will they have a hope of affording to bid for a Sponsored Link for “Hotel” (their click-through rate would be so much lower than a chain that their bid would have to be astronomical).

    I suspect that this will reverse the “disintermediation” effect of the web: that small hotel will find that it has to pay to appear on an aggregator site which can compete on a national/international scale.

    (I don’t run a hotel, nor live in Coventry, by the way)

    But respect to Google for such a clever move, and one which seems so benign when first encountered.

  26. The reason people type more slowly is that all that garbage keeps popping up while you are typing and distracts one. Thank heavens for Firefox extensions, though I might just go back to Sherlock.

  27. Here are the search results in Austria. Is there any country in the world where the first results are not so commercial? At least weather and maps come up. Saturn sounds nice but it’s an electronics store. (P.S. Sorry, couldn’t think of any rhymes, especially for zamg)

    a is for amazon
    b is for baumax
    c is for cineplexx
    d is for
    e is for
    f is for facebook
    g is for
    h is for herold
    i is for ikea
    j is for justin bieber
    k is for
    l is for leo
    m is for maps
    n is for netlog
    o is for
    p is for post
    q is for quelle
    r is for routenplaner
    s is for saturn
    t is for telering
    u is for upc
    v is for vw
    w is for wetter
    x is for xing
    y is for youtube
    z is for zamg

  28. EPIC fail! Visually jarring that the page changes as I’m typing. Until Google no longer makes the instant search the default, I’m using other search engines just on general principle.

  29. Who actually search from the google home page anyway? On FF I search in the Google search box. On Chrome I just search directly in the address bar. People actually still regularly go to By they time that would be typed in and loaded up, I can already be clicking on the first result.

  30. Yeah, ‘links pointing to…’ cache thing.

    It’s starting to make search-engines a law of diminishing returns. Except for their advert profits.

    If Google fixed it, they’d lose money.

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