Media

Google Instant: a fundamental shift in search

Google is already one of the fastest search engines on the planet — but apparently that isn’t fast enough.

Marissa Mayer, Google’s top search executive, announced a “fundamental shift” in how search operates with the launch of Google Instant at a press event in San Francisco Wednesday morning.

Google Instant still looks like the search engine’s home page people are accustomed to, but the results begin streaming in real time as a user starts typing out a search. When a user types in “SFM,” a search result for SFMOMA — the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where the event is being held — appears before the full search query is even typed.

A Google engineer later showed search results for local weather appearing after typing just the letter “W”.

Clicking on the search button or hitting “Enter” makes Google Search behave the way it always has — it brings up search results for your specific request.

Mayer said Google has spent a lot of time optimizing search on Google’s servers, bringing response time down to about 300 milliseconds, and on the network, though the latter  depends on individual Internet connections.

Google InstantBut that’s just one second typically. Humans take 9 seconds to enter a search query and 15 seconds to select a result — that’s 24 out of the 25 seconds spent o the average search. So, Google has been focusing on how to optimize the “physical” aspects of search — the typing and the thinking that a user does when searching. She said she expects users to save anywhere from 2 to 5 seconds per search.

“We want to make search fast, fun and interactive,” Mayer said.

Google Instant will be rolling out starting today for Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer 8. The service will roll out internationally throughout the week.

Google Instant will roll out on mobile devices later this year.

You can find a demo of the service below.