Google Instant: How it makes searches zippier

Google Instant starts hunting for results from the very first keystroke.
Google Instant suggests ways to finish the question "why."

Google rolled out a new feature Wednesday that it says will dramatically reduce the amount of time people spend searching online. The service, called Google Instant, saves time by eliminating keystrokes.

As soon as you starting typing into, the homepage serves up results. Tap out "the am" and Google fires back immediately with news and movie times for the George Clooney film "The American." No need to spell out the entire title. No need to click "Search." The results now appear automatically.

If you instead wanted local listings for "The Amazing Race" or help with your homework on "The American Dream," the new interface also offers a drop-down list of suggestions. One mouse-click and the new search results are at the ready.

That drop-down list is nothing new for Google – and comes standard features with Yahoo and Bing. Each search engine has compiled these suggested terms based on historically popular queries. Type "why" in Google and you'll see that the most common "why" searches are "why is the sky blue" and "why is a raven like a writing desk." (The first has to do with the separation of light coming into the atmosphere; the second is a nonsense riddle from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Don't take our word for it. Do the search yourself.)

Google Instant has taken this data about most-popular searches and turned it into immediate search results, something Bing and Yahoo have not done yet.

"We're really trying to make sure we have search as fast and as efficient as possible," said Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience, when she announced the new service Wednesday in San Francisco. "It's really providing results in real time before you have the opportunity to type your query."

With more than 1 billion users typing searches into Google each week, Mayer estimates that Google Instant will save 11 collective man-hours every second.

Google Instant is available in the US now – though not all browsers are ready for it. Here in the newsroom, Google Instant ran smoothly in Firefox and Chrome, however our out-of-date version of Safari reverted to the old search interface. Google Instant will go global in the coming weeks.

But does this new release spell the doom of "I'm Feeling Lucky"? The alternative search button has been a homepage fixture for as long as we can remember. You can still see it at, but Instant makes the button impossible to use. As soon as you type anything, the button disappears, washed away by search results. Perhaps "I'm Feeling Lucky" was a money loser for Google. After all, it subverted keyword ads by bringing users directly to Web pages.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.