Google Instant Won’t Always Save Time

Anphicle October 13, 2010 0

Google Instant Search was released to the world a few weeks ago in a typically lavish Google publicity stunt, claiming to revolutionise time saving and productivity. But it won’t for a lot of people, and it was a Google claim that brought me to this conclusion.

If you haven’t seen Google Instant yet, basically it automatically searches for the top suggested search of what you have already typed, with a new search performed with nearly every keystroke. “Throw your return key away”, they say, because you now don’t need it. Google automatically defaults to this if you are signed in with a Google account, though it is expected to roll out as default everywhere soon, including country specific sites.

Some facts, courtesy of Google:

  • Before Google Instant, the typical searcher took more than 9 seconds to enter a search term, and we saw many examples of searches that took 30-90 seconds to type.
  • Using Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search.
  • If everyone uses Google Instant globally, we estimate this will save more than 3.5 billion seconds a day. That’s 11 hours saved every second.
  • 15 new technologies contribute to Google Instant functionality.

instant google

To find out if it works or not, enter [Google Instant] into Google Instant. You get results for Google Instant Messanger. You have to take steps to get what you wanted. OK it’s as easy as pressing Delete but pressing return was just as easy without having the distraction.

google instant screenshot

The theory I have though is based on a claim by Google themselves that in recent years they are seeing more and more long tail queries, and still increasing as time goes by. That is, searchers are typing in more detailed queries than generic keywords to get more specified information. A longtail vs short example: [how long is the border between USA and Canada] vs [border usa canada].

But let’s say a searcher who would type a long tail query does so, but a Google suggestion leads them to halt typing and click on a more generic, inferior result for what they are looking for. They then have to return to Google and search again, perhaps two or three times, and Google Instant hasn’t saved any time whatsoever.

This could also be forced segueing. I just typed [why does] and it showed me results for [why does my eye twitch]. I was intrigued to go and have a look at this instead of finishing the search I was heading for but then forgot. That didn’t save me 2-5 seconds, it cost me about 15 seconds – an eon in web surf timing.

This is all a theory though for me at the moment, I have only used Google Instant to play with it and see what the fuss is about. I hate being cynical of every product released by the big net-corporations and I’m sure Instant will be a great success, just not as what Google wants everybody to think. It certainly didn’t warrant the arty farty presentation at the San Francisco Musuem of Modern Art, or the graphs and the figures but then that is Google trying to influence the price of a share.

You can turn Google Instant off by clicking Settings > Search Settings > Do not use Google Instant.

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