Google Instant Search Review – Love it or Hate it?

Let’s start by looking at what Google Instant is and how it differs from the regular search routine.

What is Google Instant Search?

Presently, when someone searches the web they usually do so by typing a key phrase into a search engine and clicking on the “Go” button.

The search engine trawls through a vast database and after an industry average of 9 seconds, returns what it thinks you are looking for.  Pretty standard stuff.

Instead of waiting for you to press the “Go” button, Google Instant returns search results as you type, trying to guess which keyword you’re entering just like predictive text on mobile phones.


Google Instant doesn’t work on all browsers yet.  It requires some JavaScript code to work and is only supported on the more modern browsers such as Firefox 3.6, IE 8, Safari and of course Google’s own Chrome, although there are rumours that it’s coming soon to smart phones and pads.  Android users will likely be the first to notice when this happens.

It also hasn’t been rolled out across all Google.* domains and is not supported at all in the built-in search bars on most popular browsers.  You have to navigate to the homepage and search from there to get your Instant results.

Your Search Results In An Instant – Sometimes..

But here’s the thing.  It’s difficult to pin down whether this is a technology beta or a final feature implementation.  Let’s hope it’s the former as, to be honest, it’s a tad flaky.

Google Instant is meant to monitor the internet connection and automatically switch off if the bandwidth isn’t suitable but we’ve found instances when even with a 50MB connection it still switches off and has to be re-enabled.

Likewise, when downloading and streaming large files, rather than turn itself off Google Instant sometimes persists at returning results as you type which can be friday…riendly…ustration…rated…ingly sloth…w.

Innovation or Just Damned Annoying?

It’s difficult to innovate if you’re already the pack leader and I applaud Google for coming up with the idea of Instant Search.

With no context or reference to go on, guessing at what somebody is going to type into the search box is not an exact science.  I’m sure we’ve all sent somebody a text message with that one nonsensical word in the middle, courtesy of predictive text.  Hopefully it was a source of good humour and not something rude and offensive.

Content Filtering or Censorship

Another thing that’s built into Google Instant is keyword filtering along the similar lines of the Safe Search option that most search engines implement.  And that’s a good thing, mostly.

Of course you wouldn’t want your teenager to see instant search results based on offensive or sexually explicit predicted keywords. Some level of moderation is required, however, there has been a bit of an issue with the current filtering used by Google Instant.

Keywords based around people’s sexual orientation have been filtered out causing some human rights organisations to speak out in anger against what they see is more of a censorship issue.

In Summary

So – beta or final product?  Love it or hate it?  Filtered or Censored?  You decide.

Google Instant is what it is.  It’s fast search results, mostly, and if you don’t like it you have the option to turn it off.

What do you think?

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Wil is a dad, WordPress consultant, WordPress developer, business coach and mentor. He co-organizes the WordPress Sydney meetup group and has been on the organising committee for WordCamp Sydney since 2014. He speaks at many special events and contributes to the WordPress open source project. His likes are chillies, craft beer and electrogravitics.