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September 9, 2010

Google unveils “instant” search results

Results will appear before you finish typing

By Steve Evans

Google has updated its core search technology to show results before users have even finished typing.

Google Instant builds on its Suggested Results technology, which brings up a list of potential search subjects as the user types a query. Google Instant builds on that by actually displaying the results below the search box, with the term Google thinks you are searching for displayed at the top. This results list then changes as the user continues to type.

"You don’t really want search-as-you-type (no one wants search results for [bike h] in the process of searching for [bike helmets]). You really want search-before-you-type — that is, you want results for the most likely search given what you have already typed," said Marissa Mayer, VP search products & user experience at Google.

"Google Instant is search-before-you-type. 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," she added.

The main benefit of the new technology is time, said Mayer. "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."

While Google seems very please with Instant, some have raised questions about the new service. John Ellis, writing on Search Engine Land, had a number of problems with the service. His experiments with it returned different results based on locations; in Nashville he got different results than Google demonstrated during the launch in San Francisco.

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"From a paid search angle, this can be a very serious concern. When targeting keywords, I need to have consistency across regions. Having that consistency allows me to target regions the way I want to with ads, not how Google Instant chooses," he wrote.

Luis Corrons at PandaLabs believes that it’s only a matter of time before cybercriminals begin to exploit the new technology: "It is fair to say that Google is ahead of the game with their search engine technologies, and they hold a huge search engine market share. We know that, and of course cybercriminals also know it. In fact, they have been using Google results as a way to spread malware using BHSEO campaigns for years now, following the top search terms that people are using in Google searches in order to create fake websites."

"In light of the launch of the new Google Instant search engine, there is a risk that cybercriminals are going to abuse this new tool. As users type searches into the real-time engine the opportunity for cybercriminals to infect users through BHSEO campaigns is increased and Google are potentially putting millions of users at risk. Users should exercise caution when clicking on unknown links and URL’s," he added.

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