Google Extends Pre-Rendering to Chrome Location Bar

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) has found another way to fine-tune the performance of its browser. It's adding another stage to its pre-rendering process and is accelerating search queries that are launched from the location bar of Chrome.

Google made pre-rendering of limited (very limited) search results available some time ago, but there's now another interesting option that can accelerate a Google search: a new flag that's been made available in recent nightly versions of the Chromium browser. When enabled, the new feature will pre-render a search result when a query is typed into Chrome's location bar. As a result, there is no delay between pressing the "enter" button and the display of the search result anymore, as long as a user pays attention to the options shown in the location bar and the search result has time to pre-render.

For example, a search for "winter olympics nagano 1998" will trigger the URL "http://www.google.com/search?aq=f&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=winter+olympics+nagano+1998" to pre-render and become instantly available when the user selects is. The feature works well across multiple windows, but it doesn't work when Instant Search is activated through Chrome's search options. Even if Instant Search is deactivated during a browser session in a particular Chrome window, we noticed that the "Omnibox Prerendering" will not activate itself on the fly, Instant Search was enabled in the same window before. A user will always have to start from scratch and open a new Chrome window to take advantage of location bar pre-rendering.

While the feature is counterproductive as far as Instant Search is concerned, it is complementary for users who don't enable Google's Instant Search feature in Chrome and delivers a perceived performance improvement directly from within the browser. In effect, Google now pre-renders a search query as well as limited search results once the user has requested the results page. All pre-rendered URLs can be monitored through the local URL chrome://net-internals/#prerender.

The absolute gain in performance may be marginal, but our impression is that Chrome is snappier and provides access to search results from within the browser faster than Firefox, IE, Safari, or Opera do. Also worth noting is that the search result pre-rendering in Chrome is not limited to Google's search engine also works elsewhere, including Yahoo!'s search engine and Bing as well.

There's a good chance that many users will perceive Chrome to have a speed advantage in accessing Bing results over Microsoft's own IE9 browser. Making pre-rendering available in the location bar is about as close to a subjective Instant Search feature for other search engines as Google can get. We previously criticized Google's intentions to tailor Chrome to search features in order to support its search and advertising dominance. However, this strategy works well and is perfectly executed. Few users will find any fault with being given a browser that accelerates common tasks, such as searching. Google has the clear lead with Chrome, and it appears that Mozilla, Apple, and Opera -- as well as Microsoft -- can't keep pace.

The Omnibox Prerendering flag is available in current Chromium nightly builds, version 14.804.0 and up, and can be accessed through the "about:flags" command.

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