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Faster than a speeding searcher. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Google Instant!

Google engineers promise that the new Google Instant–a super speedy search-before-you-type enhancement–will shave 2-5 seconds off each of our searches.

Currently available to all searchers in the U.S., the feature fills in predicted queries in light gray type and instantly shows results as you type, appearing to beat you to your own search.

Just look down, no need to hit return before the result list appears.

The Official Google Blog suggests three major benefits:

  • Dynamic Results – Google dynamically displays relevant search results as you type so you can quickly interact and click through to the web content you need.
  • Predictions – One of the key technologies in Google Instant is that we predict the rest of your query (in light gray text) before you finish typing. See what you need? Stop typing, look down and find what you’re looking for.
  • Scroll to search – Scroll through predictions and see results instantly for each as you arrow down.

And the Google engineers explain the need for the speed:

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.

The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way.

For my students, I am a bit more interested in the search thinking than the speed and I wonder what effect this will have on their search experience.  My guess/my hope is that they will actively interact with suggestions and revise their searches more immediately and with more frequency.  (I also wonder if they’ll notice.)

In any case, I’m going to experiment with some over-the-shoulder teaching.  I’ll keep you posted.

And just in case you were wondering about some of the icky predictive possibilities when working with younger children, Google notes in the FAQs:

If an offensive or lewd word is a fraction of my query, will Google push these results in front of me as I type?
As always, we provide options to filter the content you see in search. You can choose to set SafeSearch to filter out explicit content, and parents can lock SafeSearch to the strict setting. In addition, autocomplete excludes certain terms related to pornography, violence and hate speech.
Note: I am sure I’ve seen examples of this type of predictive searching in other interfaces, but this particular feature is eerily intuitive!
Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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