Having had a few more hours to explore Google Instant there are four things that I find seriously annoying about it:
1. The way the suggestions and results are displayed is so messy and busy. AlltheWeb’s LiveSearch implementation was so much slicker and easier to follow. A pity that Yahoo did not follow through on that one but they never have taken really good experimental stuff further.
2. You only get 10 results per page regardless of what you have on your Settings page. This is a major problem for me because I have my display set to 100. I don’t trust the first results in a Google search to be – er, how shall I put it – unbiased, and I want to be able to quickly scan through at least 30 or 40 to get an indication of whether or not I need to modify my strategy. Having to keep clicking for the next page is going to drive me up the wall. I can understand, though, that allowing everyone to have more than 10 results per page would probably slow down the processing and display of results.
3. The Wonderwheel has gone from Google Instant results. I don’t use this feature that often but it does sometimes help me narrow my search or to branch out in a completely different direction.
4. It messes up several of my Firefox add-ons, in particular OptimizeGoogle. Google SearchWiki (now defunct) did exactly the same.
I have now turned off Google Instant. It offers me no benefits that compensate for the loss of features and options.
Many people are also complaining that the ability to turn off query suggestions has now disappeared (thanks to Paul Chapman for bringing this to my attention – see his comment to my initial Google Instant review at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2010/09/09/google-instant-display-results-as-you-type/comment-page-1/#comment-8637). You can still do it if you use Google SSL at https://encrypted.google.com/ but that is no help whatsoever if you want to use a country version of Google as I often do. To be honest I rarely pay any attention to the suggested queries and most of the time I start my search from the Google Toolbar where I have suggestions turned off. But if you really do not want query suggestions or it causes technical problems, and Google does not reinstate the turn-off option, the main alternatives are Yahoo or Bing. Both still allow you to switch it off.
No, Google hasn’t branched out into groceries – yet. Google Instant is not a brand of coffee but a new search and display feature that shows changing results as you type your search. Google says that it is actually display before you type because it tries to predict your full strategy and delivers results for that search. As you add more terms the predictions and the results change:
“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.“
The list of predicted searches – they are the same as Google Suggest – appears below your search box. If you spot a better strategy you can scroll down the list to select it.
I found that Google does eventually run out of predictions. In some cases it was after only three terms: in others it took seven or eight before Google gave up but carried on changing the results as I typed in extra terms. If you are a more experienced and advanced searcher who uses search commands such as ‘filetype:’ or ‘site:’ you are suddenly presented with a blank page. This totally confused me at first and I thought that Google simply did not have any results for my search. In these situations Google reverts to ‘old style’ search, so just carry on as normal and press enter to view your results.
Note: You have to be signed in to your Google account to see Google Instant.
Not everyone will have Google Instant right now:
“Google Instant will become the core search experience on Google.com for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and IE 8. We’ll also be offering Google Instant to our users in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and the U.K. who are signed in and have Instant-capable browsers. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll work to roll out Google Instant to all geographies and platforms.”
I am guessing that IE 6 is not included in the “all geographies and platforms” as Google has already withdrawn support for it in some of its other services, for example YouTube.
The idea is not new. AlltheWeb – owned by Yahoo – was trying out a similar approach with its Livesearch a few years ago. I found it extremely useful because you could quickly spot if you had a gone a search term too far. The progression might go: OK-ish results, relevant, even better, superb, total rubbish. It was then easy to remove the last term you had typed in to get back to your superb results list. When further development of AlltheWeb stopped Livesearch was discontinued.
Another good idea abandoned by Yahoo and later taken up by someone else. Some of you may also remember Yahoo Mindset which gave you a slider bar to change the emphasis of your results to find more shopping or research oriented pages. Google now has a fewer/more shopping sites option in the left hand menu on its web results pages.
My first impressions are mixed. Sometimes the predictions work, sometimes they don’t and I don’t find it as easy to take in the changing display as I did with AlltheWeb Livesearch. I think that is because Livesearch had the search box on the left hand side of the screen and I find it easier to glance across the page rather than down to monitor what is happening to my search.
Find Google Instant distracting and want to turn it off? Either sign out of your Google account or click on the Settings link in the top right hand corner of the screen. The option to turn it off is at the bottom of the Settings screen.
Further information is available on the Official Google Blog – Search: now faster than the speed of type