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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 8, 2010 at 11:03 AM

Google Instant launches, as Bing+Yahoo gets rolling

Google today turned on a new feature called “Google Instant” that guesses what you’re searching for as soon as you start typing in its main search page.

The feature, which will roll out over several days for people using the latest browsers, fills in the search box with shaded words as you start typing – attempting to complete your thoughts before you type them.

During a press event in San Francisco that was also broadcast on YouTube, Google Vice President Marissa Mayer called it “search at the speed of thought” and a “quantum leap forward” in search.

Google says the typical searcher takes more than 9 seconds to enter a term, and “many” searches took 30 to 90 seconds to type. It believes Google Instant will save two to five seconds per search. From the release:

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.

We’ll see how that works for the people who take 90 seconds to type a search query.

But Google Instant will still change the way a lot of people use Google and could shake up the search marketing industry.

Some users may find it annoying or creepy and turn off the feature, although most probably won’t bother to change the default setting.

Search marketers are going to have to rethink their complicated strategies to push their sites higher into Google’s results. The golden ring will now be getting a company to automatically appear as people start typing.

A wonderful thing about Google’s egalitarian search algorithms is the way they attempt to level the playing field and expose people to a breadth of information on the Web. I wonder if the serendipity and discovery that comes with searching will be sacrificed a bit for convenience and speed.

It’s like over-engineering a library. The most efficient operation would be to have a librarian standing by the door, to hand you a book as you step inside, thinking that’s what you’ll like. Why bother to look further?

Google’s pitch is that Instant speeds up your searches and saves people time. Google’s already pretty fast, but it’s probably getting tired of Microsoft saying that Bing’s more efficient.

What is faster is the rate of innovation that’s happening in the search business, now that Bing’s getting some scale.

Google’s latest upgrade comes shortly after Microsoft’s search partnership with Yahoo took effect. Together they gave Bing a big jump in market share – 24.56 percent in the last full week of August, according to an Experian Hitwise report yesterday.

Experian’s report said people were already using shorter queries on search engines. Longer queries, averaging five to eight words long, decreased 2 percent from July to August, and two-word queries accounted for 23.71 percent of searches. Google handled 71.59 percent of the searches during the full month.

Google’s introductory video:

Comments | Topics: bing, Bing, Google


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