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Feedback Effects in Google Instant September 8, 2010

Posted by Andre Vellino in Search.

I haven’t experimented with Google Instant long enough to tell if I will like it over the long run, but it certainly is an extraordinary feat of engineering!  This new feature – which uses the “Google Suggest” auto-completion feature and Ajax to give you “instant” search results based on just the first few characters of your search query – imposes a dramatic load increase on Google servers. Yet clever engineering feats in caching and efficient query optimization have produced the desired scalability results and it is impressive to use.

(BTW – If you want to try “Google Instant” and you are in a country that doesn’t have it yet try “/ncr” (no country redirect), i.e.  “http://www.google.com/ncr“)

One effect that is sure to manifest over time is a feedback loop that “Google Instant” will have on “Google Suggest”. Just as people (mostly) currently click on one of the top-10 search results, so I expect most users will increasingly search for what Google suggests rather than their own terms and expressions, thus narrowing the range of options that “Suggest” can offer users over time.

One (interesting) issue is going to be: does “Instant” degrade the quality of “Suggest”.  i.e. the more people use “Instant” the more the “top-N” suggested terms are reinforced, thus thinning out the “long tail” of queries.  Is “Instant” going to increasingly cater to the lowest common denominator?

The demos given at the Google Instant launch by Google executives showed off how just typing “w” results in an instant and prescient result for “The Weather Network” (which, surprise, is what that demo scenario has you wanting!) I thought it might be interesting find out what Google Instant produces with each of the 26 letter of the alphabet.  Here are the results:

A: Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics …
B: Best Buy: TVs, Digital Cameras  …
C: craigslist: los angeles classifieds for jobs …
D: Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings …
E: eBay – New & used electronics, cars,  …
F: Welcome to Facebook
G: Gmail: Email from Google
H: Windows Live Hotmail
I: Welcome to IKEA.com
J: JetBlue | Airline Tickets, Flights, and Airfare
K: Kohl’s
L: Lowe’s Home Improvement: Appliances, Tools…
M: MapQuest Maps – Driving Directions – Map
N: Netflix – TV & movies instantly streamed online  …
O: Orbitz Travel: Airline Tickets, Cheap Hotels …
P: Pandora Radio – Listen to Free Internet Radio …
Q: Famous Quotes and Quotations at BrainyQuote
R: REI – Outdoor Gear, Equipment  …
S: Sears: Appliances, Tools, Electronics …
T: Target.com – Furniture, Baby, Toys …
U: USPS – The United States Postal Service …
V: Verizon | Broadband (DSL) Internet Service …
W: Current Weather – The Weather Network
X: Xbox.com | Home
Y: Yahoo!
Z: Zillow – Real Estate, Homes for Sale ….

“Suggest” results are clearly dominated by big on-line businesses: Sears, Verizon, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, eBay…. Is that really what most Google users search for most of the time? If so, I despair for the democratic internet.


1. gp - September 9, 2010

I like it most of the time its accurate not all the time but its still pretty cool

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