September 11, 2010 – The world of search engines was turned upside down this week when Google debuted Google Instant. This was quietly unveiled with little warning or fanfare until was already online. You may have noticed that when you type in your recent Google searches, search results begin showing immediately and change as you are typing. Search suggestions also show up quicker and more prominent below the search box as Google receives more characters (information) from the searcher. It is one of those amazing technological achievements that we have come to expect from Google, an information technology giant that can never be accused of resting on its laurels (hello Microsoft!). There is no doubt that this will help people who have are searching for ambiguous or open ended phrases.
So, of course, I am about to tell you why it is fantastic and going to revolutionize the search industry as we know it. Errr, not exactly. In fact, I expect Google to scrap the concept altogether sooner than later for the following reasons:
Reason 1 – It is a gimmick. While Google still dominates market share, Bing has been generating a tremendous amount of positive buzz over the past year. With the merger between Microsoft and Yahoo and the fact that Yahoo now runs on Bing’s search algorithm, Google has to recognize that Bing is now a legitimate (if still distant) threat. Google has even changed its interface to mimic that of Bing’s. Google Instant pushes the company back into the forefront of the search engine headlines. Most of Google’s buzz in recent months has been more related to cell phones and China. This is their first major search innovation in quite some time (Google Caffeine was huge as well, but unnoticed by the layperson).
Reason 2 – It is annoying. Most people know what they are searching for they type it. Being told a number of things that one does not want to search for as they are typing comes off as a bit trite. In addition, the search results begin showing immediately. Just because I type an “I” for “Indianapolis Colts Receivers” does not mean that I want to see IBM showing up right off the bat. Does Google really think they know me that well that they can predict my query based upon a single letter?
Reason 3 – Eventually, it is going to cost Google money. It is not much of a secret that Google gets a large percentage of its revenue from Adwords (pay-per-click). Remember when stock analysts could not understand how Google was making money? That was how. But Google Instant de-emphasizes Adwords results. The suggested search results showing up below tend to draw the user’s eye to the organic (free and natural) results. If users routinely click on these instead of the paid ads, Google does not receive any pay-per-click revenue. If that happens at even a slightly greater rate than it currently occurs, Google will feel it in the bottom line. Should that occur, Google will turn off instant twice as quickly as it was turned on.
Time will tell if Instant is a smash hit or Google’s version of the Edsel. I just do not see it as the slam dunk that Google will have you believe it to be. At the very least, there are a few chinks in the armor that will need to be hammered out for long term success.
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