Google Instant Aims to Save Time, Distracts Instead

Wasting time with Google's new search, ironically, is easier than you'd think.

Everyone has that annoying friend who gets soooo excited about what you're talking about that they interrupt you and try finishing your sentence.

Google Instant, a new search mechanism that streams Web results as you type, is kind of like that friend.

Visit Google.com to begin a search. Type one letter, and pause. A stream of results "predicting" your search will appear. Type another letter, and yet another set of results will pop up. Repeat ad nauseum, again and again. This can be a potentially distracting strobe of search results.

Marissa Mayer, VP of search products and user experience at Google describes Google Instant as "search-before-you-type" experience. Essentially it "predicts" the most likely completion of your query and streams results for those predictions. She says that the search results will yield a "smarter and faster search that is interactive, predictive and powerful."

Moreover, Google says that Google Instant will save the average searcher two to five seconds per search, or "11 hours with each passing second."

An impressive figure on the surface, and one that probably makes some measurable difference in productivity numbers for large corporations. But for the greater Google-user population, is the distraction worth the time saved?

Probably not. Searching five times a day will save between 10 seconds and 25 seconds, or between 50 seconds and two minutes over the course of a work week. And for those people (like me) who use a browser's Google search toolbar instead of typing in "Google.com," you probably shave those seconds off searching anyway.

There's a lot of buzz about whether or not Google Instant is The Next Big Thing in search. For now, though, just consider it fun.

Try a letter-by-letter search to start off. One on "shoes," for example, yields results for a clothing retailer, a supermarket, a chain of movie theaters, then finally "shoes.com." Ironically, wasting time with Google Instant is easier than you'd think.

Give Google Instant a try. But if you find it too distracting and miss the old Google search, changing your settings is easy. Visit Google.com and click "Settings" at the top, then "Search settings." Scroll to the bottom until you see the options for "Google Instant" and click "Do not use Google Instant."

Do you think Google Instant is a game-changer? Will you continue using it?

Kristin Burnham covers Consumer Technology, SaaS, Social Networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com.

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