September 14, 2010

How long until the majority of Google search users select the Instant is Off option on Google’s latest search engine initiative?

What we reported last week as potentially not being the smartest idea Google have ever had – Google Instant or Just Confusing Search Engine – has now arrived and we couldn’t resist a little play before turning it off!

Is this just a commercial manipulation of results? When we type ‘FOR’ the search page provides a full page of results about Ford Motor Company but pressing ‘Search’ at that point then changes the context of the page with results including the ‘WordPress FOR loop’, ‘Help for Heroes‘ and ‘Transport for London‘ with only one result for Ford that is No.2 in the list.

Besides the results, the biggest operational issue seems to be that when you stop typing to think, Google starts thinking for you and totally screws things up when you start typing again! There is far too much enthusiasm in the Google coding to really tell you what you’re searching for rather than guess from your input. Another potential issue may be a drain on processor power but as yet our investigations haven’t been able to prove this.

In the recent publication of “The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember“, Nicholas Carr suggests that the more simple software becomes, the more it undermines intelligence and things should be more difficult to help us concentrate.

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This Google-ism of Instant may well actually be the thing that makes our lives difficult but it may also be the undoing of Google. From it’s layout and graphics to its use Google has outwitted and outperformed its commercial competition mainly because of its simplicity but those foundations are now being rocked.

Has Google wielded to pressure from the business community? From a commercial perspective it does allow Google to control listings and adverts in a similar way to Microsoft’s insistence on providing Internet Explorer.

We tried typing the words “what” and “sex” to see what Google believes we’re all thinking when we type these words…

‘What’ resulted in prompted results for:
W – weather
WH – WHSmith
WHA – What Car?
WHAT – continued with What Car?

‘Sex’ resulted in prompted results for:
SE – Selfridges
SEX – Sex and the City

The initial results suggest that Google believes we search for commercial businesses and information. What the Instant results also do is blitz us with results based on its suggestion (i.e. a whole page of SKY Digital and SKY News links) rather than the more diverse results we’ve come to know and expect when we adapt our individual searches. What this means is where we originally searched for SKY Broadband and saw the results specifically associated with our query, we are more likely to stop after a single letter and select what Google chooses for us. In the long run this could dramatically limit search results.

However, Google search continues to provide sensible corrections and suggestions for the longer and more technical search queries as long as you can type quickly enough to stop it second guessing you.

Anyway, for now, Google Instant will remain switched off while we retain what little independent thinking we have left…

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Last updated: October 26, 2010 at 6:33 pm