Wednesday, September 8

AJAX Results as you Type: Google Instant

Google announced Google Instant on their official blog.

Google Instant - "Search at the speed of thought". Google Instant is results as you type with a new AJAX view of Google's search results. It takes the autocomplete feature a step further and sends the most probable search to the server to fetch the results. A few optimizations to make it possible:
  • Prioritizing searches - the biggest optimization is to run only the most probable searches.
  • User state - shortcut in process searches that are obsolete to avoid running all searches to completion
  • Result caches - improved result caching
Overall, Google claims that instant search saves 2-5 seconds per query. It took some really committed engineers at Google, including Ben Gomes, to make it possible. Kudos!

It is worth noting that many of these ideas have been in the community for awhile. For example, it reminds me of the CompleteSearch system, which has been around since SIGIR 2006. CompleteSearch has some novel prefix based search capability which is still beyond what Google rolled out today.


  1. Anonymous2:27 PM EDT

    I think it'll really shine for people when it comes to refining searches. I want to know how ad words will be affected though, along with SEO stuff.

  2. Actullay a guy implement Instant search using Bing API last year:

  3. For such a high-throughput infrastructure, this is truly a commendable task.

    One of the inherent non-UX differences between H.Bast's CompleteSearch and this is that Bast's work talked about result generation as a part of the query process. My understanding with Google is that they partition this process and that they're pre-materializing entire resultsets for all popular queries, which translates the problem into one of caching, as you point out here.

    Another interesting fact that wasn't highlighted much is the pervasive use of IP-targeting and profiling to optimize query predictions. Since this is completely based on marketshare, it becomes very hard for any competitor to use these optimizations, making it more expensive to pull off something like this.

  4. Syed - Thanks for the live link. That prototype is a bit buggy, at least in Chrome. My searches didn't complete correctly. The idea has been around awhile, it's just amazing that they've managed to do it in a scalable and useful way!

  5. I agree, Google has done a commendable job to make it scale and even safe. I just have an issue with the way they were trying to show off as if it was their original idea.

    I want to see whether BING will jump on the 'instant' bandwagon. If they do then a Blind instant search will be something I would like to try. (

  6. Your good knowledge and kindness in playing with all the pieces were very useful. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not encountered such a step like this.
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