September 9th, 2010 4:00 pm | by BRIAN PANGANIBAN News | Posted In: Business, Tech

Willamette Geek: Google Instant - Are We Really That Impatient?


Yesterday morning, Google introduced Google Instant.

As far as Google products go, this one seems more of a Google Maps or Voice style success than the failure that was Buzz or Wave. It works, and people will use it.

So what is it?

Google Instant augments a live search suggestions so that while you type, instead of just giving you a list of potential search topics, it automatically starts presenting you with search results below the search bar. For example, let's see what happens when we just type the letter "w" in the Google search bar:

Not only does the search bar now "phantom complete" as you type, generating a list of commonly searched for topics based on search trends, it somehow seems to know that I'm currently in Portland. Cool, but a little creepy. In their official blog, Google claims that they can save us two to five seconds per search which, if you search as often as I do, can add up.

I like the service. The visual cues that get presented by the actual search results popping up as I type do speed things along, letting me know if the term I'm using is truly what I'm looking for.

A couple of things bother me, though:

1. What if all my search workflow happens in the address bar? Very rarely do I go to the Google website to do my searching, but if this service proves to be so useful as to draw me back to their homepage, then Google has done their homework.

2. What sort of information is Google caching or cross referencing in order to generate their "Dynamic Results"? How did they know I was in Portland? It's sometimes difficult to forget that Google generates their income from ad revenue. Which leads to:

3. Isn't this a way to just generate more impressions for their Sponsored Links? Every time you add a letter to your search query, the Sponsored Link list on the right is refreshed. The "w" in the example above sports links to weather specific results, but adding "en" snags a slew of links for "Wendy's".

4. What about smaller, more specific sites that tend not to show up in the initial wave of results generated by Google? In the classic Google method, I would be more likely to click to the second page of results for thoroughness' sake. Results come so quickly with Instant that I find myself stopping and starting quite a bit. The Wall Street Journal seems to think that advertisers will pay big money for the more general search terms to ensure their sites show up at the top of the list.

Google says that it intends to roll out Instant to mobile devices in the fall. Users can deactivate Instant in the Search Settings window.
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