Google recently released their Google Instant Search feature, the ability for Google Search to predict instantly what the searcher is looking for and showing results without typing the entire phrase or pressing the “Enter” button. While this seems like a great idea for some, for others it is a nightmare.
The Google Facts
Google stated that for most people, Instant Search would shave off at least two to five seconds from each word or phrase searched by users. Since the user does not have to type in the entire word or phrase, this would theoretically be considered a true statement. The Official “About Google Instant” page states that Google Instant is “helping you see where you’re headed.” This means that the search helps direct people to the results they want by predicting what they are searching for as they are typing, thus results are produced faster. However great this may sound, my tests have shown that Google’s Instant Search may not be as fast and time saving as they claim.
Example One: Computer Review
This action could also be construed as an attempt to direct users to results they may have never been directed to otherwise. For example, in testing the search results, I searched for the phrase “computer review” with Instant Search turned off. The predicting ability of the search terms showed the exact phrase as the second term, after typing “computer r,” so I arrowed down and clicked enter on that term.
I then searched for the same phrase with Instant Search turned on. In this case, as I typed, the exact phrase did not appear at all until I got to “computer rev” and even then, it was at the bottom of seven possible phrases I might have been searching for. I had the choice to arrow down or continue typing for the result page to show the right results for what I was searching. So, to continue the test, I continued typing until Computer review results finally showed after typing, “computer revie.”
Example Two: Associated Content
In repeating the same real time test, I found the results even slower. In this test, I searched for the phrase “Associated Content.” While the Instant Search was turned off, using just the text predictor, I typed simply, “ass…” and the entire term showed up number nine in the list. So I arrowed down and clicked enter. I then searched for the same term with Instant Search turned on and typed, “ass” as I did with the function off, and “Assassin’s creed” and “assateague island” were in the list, among other similar terms, but nothing else. I had to type “assoc” before it even registered “associated press” as a predicted result, but still no Associated Content. I typed as far as “associated co” before the results showed anything for Associated Content’s website.
Why Such a Big Difference?
In completing these and similar tests in the same way, I am finding that Google’s Instant Search may not save time after all and it also may not show the same results as regular search does. On average, being a researcher, I am finding my searches are taking twice as long as usual and I need to type in almost twice as many characters then I would with instant Search turned off. I am also finding that I am having to search twice as many phrases to land the most relevant content to my search phrases. Not to mention Instant Search almost completely crashes my browser as well. Every time it is used, the search results disappear to show “more relevant results” and my Firefox 3.6.8 browser locks up until the results are displayed-after the entire page disappears first. This makes the entire Instant Search process even slower.
I will say that whether this is an artifact of my computer and processor or Google’s Instant Search function, I still do not know. However, as of this moment, Instant Search is turned off on my computer and will remain so until the process changes or my browser stops crashing when I use it.
Questions for Google and Readers
What this writer would like to know is, why is there such a difference in prediction results with Instant Search turned on? It seems that Google is attempting to direct users to a specific search term or key phrase if the conclusions of the testing completed on my “client side” end is believed.
As for slow connections and my browser crashing, a Google Spokesperson states that,
“In general, while we do not anticipate Instant will slow home Internet connections, we do plan to automatically turn off Google Instant for users on very slow connections. Users always have the option to turn Instant on or off. Even though we are serving more search results pages, the additional load this enhancement creates is very small when compared to other types of popular web services such as streaming video and online gaming. We’ve also worked hard to minimize the amount of data that is sent and received during the search process. For example, when rendering new search results as people type, we only send the parts of the page that change without updating the static elements, such as a the page frame around the results.”
I am still waiting for a reply to the rest of the questions raised (differing results when hey are supposed to be the same) and as soon as I receive one, my readers will be the first to know with an update. Anyone using Google Instant Search: if you believe that it does save them time and brings you better results faster, leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.
“Search: Now Faster than the Speed of Type,” Official Google Blog