If you've been visiting Google
One hectic YouTube-hosted presentation later, we know exactly what it is: Google now tries to read your mind. Only about one second out of every search query is spent on running the query itself and shuttling network traffic back and forth. Since the whole process takes about 25 seconds on average, from the moment you begin typing a few words into the search box until you finally click on a link, that leaves a lot of optimizing to do when it comes to entering text and selecting a search result.
Go back to Google now and run a search, and you'll see results flashing before your eyes, before you've really told Google what you want to see. The technology is based on the autocomplete feature, which now attempts to find a full query matching your input letter by letter. It's not easy to describe this action, but something tells me I won't have to for much longer -- this is now the default way to run searches on Google.com, will soon extend to obvious platforms like mobile browsers and the search boxes in products like Google Chrome. It'll undoubtedly be copied by every search engine known to humanity before you can search for "antidisestablishmentarianism."
In the eternal battle for search supremacy, giants like Google, Yahoo!
What's the point?
This is great for users, since searching just became a little bit easier and more intuitive -- but what's in it for Google? First up, you will now be exposed to more ads than before as you flick your keystrokes at Google. For a company with $23.7 billion in mostly ad-click revenue last year, it doesn't take a big percentage increase to make serious cash from extra exposure.
That folds in neatly with the first of Google's 10 overarching design philosophies: Focus on the user and all else will follow. Treat the user right, and there's no reason to use Bing or Ask or Baidu
It's a hard problem, and no company -- including Google -- is anywhere near perfect yet. But Google is doing its best to build that mythical beast. In the question-and-answer session following the presentation of this new feature, Google co-founder Sergey Brin noted that the online experience will change dramatically over the next few years, thanks to innovations from Google, Apple
This is why Google keeps throwing bowls of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks and what just makes a mess. If users turn out to hate Google Instant, as the as-you-type search feature is known, it's easy enough to cut it out and try again. But if it's a hit, which seems very likely, the other guys now have a lot of work to do just to catch up -- or else look quaintly obsolete.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Baidu and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers choices. Apple and Amazon.com are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
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