Google speeds search - but will everybody like it?

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google's ramped up the speed of search with a new Instant Pages system which it claims can knock up to five seconds off the time a web page takes to load.

The system is based on the assumption that most users will pick the top offering from the list of search results. While the user is dithering over which link to click, Instant Pages automatically prerenders the top result, so that if the user chooses it, it loads immediately.

"The good news is that we’ve been working for years to develop our relevance technology, and we can fairly accurately predict when to prerender," says Google fellow Amit Singhal.

The feature will appear in the next beta release of Chrome, and is in the developer version, here. Google's also promising to open access to the code so that other browsers can incorporate the feature.
http://www.chromium.org/getting-involved/dev-channel

Other new features include Voice Search, now available for PC users as well as mobile.

"If you’re using Chrome, you’ll start to see a little microphone in every Google search box. Simply click the microphone, and you can speak your search," says Singhal.

"This can be particularly useful for hard-to-spell searches like [bolognese sauce] or complex searches like [translate to Spanish where can I buy a hamburger]."

And there's a new Search by Image feature, too. As the service rolls out, users will see a little camera icon on images.google.com. Clicking on it allows the user to upload any picture or plug in an image URL from the web and ask Google to figure out what it is.

"Try it out when digging through old vacation photos and trying to identify landmarks — the search [mountain path] probably isn’t going to tell you where you were, but computer vision may just do the trick," suggests Singhal.

Generally speaking, most people will be happy to have even faster search. But some people may not like Instant Pages all the same.

If users know that the top search result is likely to load a lot more quickly than any of the others, that may affect what they click. Owners of websites that are the number two or three result for common searches could see traffic fall.