posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 8th Sep 2010 18:53 UTC
IconHold on to your security blanket, people, because Google is rolling out a pretty big change to its search engine. Not too long ago the internet was in a shock because Google rolled out a new feature that allowed you to pick a background image for the Google home page, just like Microsoft's Bing. Google went a lot further today, and has launched Google Instant, adding search-before-you-type results to the Google home page.

Google doesn't add big features to its search engine very often. Apart from delivering good results, another major appeal of Google - and one of the reasons its search engine is still king of the hill - is the iconic home page and the straightforward presentation of your query's results. As such, a major change like this is a pretty big deal.

Some websites are erroneously reporting that Google Instant delivers search results as-you-type, but if you read Google's announcement carefully, this is not the proper name for the new feature - it works differently. Google calls it search-before-you-type. Their reasoning is that when you want to search for "bike helmets", you're not really interested in the results for "bike h".

"Google Instant is search-before-you-type," explains Marissa Mayer, VP Search Products & User Experience, "Instant takes what you have typed already, predicts the most likely completion and streams results in real-time for those predictions - yielding a smarter and faster search that is interactive, predictive and powerful."

"The user benefits of Google Instant are many - but the primary one is time saved," Mayer adds, "Our testing has shown that Google Instant saves the average searcher two to five seconds per search. That may not seem like a lot at first, but it adds up. With Google Instant, we estimate that we’ll save our users 11 hours with each passing second!"

The feature is currently available on Google.com (for now only if you're signed in with a Google account), and will become available on local Google sites in the weeks and months to come. You'll need either Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or IE 8, and despite not being mentioned, I'm assuming it'll work just fine in Opera as well (any testers wish to confirm this?).

I'm sold. It just feels very natural, and you no longer need to press enter to get to the results - you go to the results page as soon as you start typing. It's great to see Google not resting on its laurels, and continue to innovate even though they don't really need to.

There are people around who wonder why so many people like Google, why the search giant generates positive feelings instead of negative ones, despite the fact that they're a company like everyone else. Well, people, it's because they do stuff like this. They don't have to innovate with the kind of market share they have - yet they do it anyway.

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