Google Instant: initial impressions of predictive search


September 9, 2010 by MMIT

Google Instant is the new  Google search feature, described as ‘search before you type’. It is a prediction-based search giving real-time results. And while the technology behind it sounds impressive (new caching systems and optimisation of page-rendering JavaScript – details not forthcoming), I’m not really sure I see the benefit of Google trying to predict my search query. Coupled with the search suggestions already provided, it risks making what was a nice clean search environment a bit too busy.

It currently works with the following browsers:  Chrome v5/6, Firefox v3, Safari v5 for Mac and Internet Explorer v8. The main benefit seems to be speed in accessing results but there haven’t been any claims of a positive impact on accuracy. Saving between two and five seconds per search really wasn’t top of my list of priorities. Having said that, I’m curious to try it out on Google Scholar and am already imagining how predictive search might be realised in library catalogues.

You do have the option to turn the feature off from your preferences, though Google Instant is only currently available from the domain and if you are signed into a Google Account. Personally, I tend to use my browser’s search box rather than navigating to the search page anyway so the impact on my search habits won’t be much.

The mobile version is expected soon, which is an environment where speed can have a big impact and I’m curious as to hear more about the reasoning behind this development and where it will go from here. As a first impression though, it made me wish Google adopted more of the mantra,  if it ain’t broke..


7 thoughts on “Google Instant: initial impressions of predictive search

  1. Daniel says:

    I think the main benefit is that because you can see the results your search terms return as you type them you can see how successful they are and refine your search as you go. So basically you cut out all the re-typing, re-clicking, and re-searching you would normally do. Good intro vid:

    • Kate says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Have you found that it does save you a lot of time (and typing)? So far, I find reading results while typing a search query a bit distracting – and I must admit the librarian in me still kind of hopes people have planned their search before they start typing – though I know this is far from the case!


      • Daniel says:

        It only came out today so I can’t say I’ve used it a great deal! But from what I’ve tried it is a far more fluid and responsive way to search the internet. To be able to manipulate your search in real-time is a fantastic advance.
        The point you make about planning searches is interesting as Google Instant could make planning searches redundant (for everyday searching).

      • Kate says:

        You’re right, it does provide instant feedback on the relevance of search terms which I think has interesting potential. Still finding it a bit distracting to have the results appearing while typing though. It all just feels a bit too jumpy…

  2. Ben says:

    Google Instant vanished from my life as quickly as it came into it! It’s gone for me today – anyone else??

  3. John says:

    I loathe and detest predictive searching, How the hell do I turn it off?

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The MmIT group is a CILIP special interest group concerned with the organisation, delivery and exploration of information through modern media including graphic forms, video and web based application. This blog contains news from the group and about multimedia information and technology in the library and information. For more information about MmIT see

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