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Examining Google’s Claim of Instant’s Success



Last week, Google was talking about the great success that Google Instant has become. It’s the same feature that drew the ire of many in the tech industry when it was first introduced (me included) but it has apparently fought through that resistance.

As stated in Fast Company magazine last week

Since then, have Google users shunned Instant as a disruptive technology, or welcomed it as the new template for the way we search the web?

The answer to that question, six months later, is emphatically in Google’s favor. According to Ben Gomes, the lead engineer on Google Instant, the engine’s newest feature has had a remarkably small attrition rate: Roughly 98% of users are using Instant, leaving around just 2% of users who have opted out.

My take on this ‘result’ may be more about who is actually paying attention enough to act than just how revolutionary the technology is. Google talks about the seconds of search time saved by searchers when using Instant. What is even more interesting is the claim by Google that it is easy to opt-out. When described by Gomes you realize just how engineer-centric Google is thus placing them far removed from most regular search users.

“We’ve seen good results with Instant, even after launch,” Gomes tells Fast Company. “We found [we have] have a very low opt-out rate.”

Though users have the option to return to traditional type-and-click searching–”We kept an opt-out, and in fact made it really prominent,” says Gomes

Real prominent. That’s rich. Here is how prominent the opt-out option is on my look at the Google home page. Nothing here but us crickets.

In fact, you don’t get the option until the results start to roll in. Then if you click on it that little arrow that is SOOO prominent in the upper right next to the search box then you have the chance to turn it off if you are thinking that way.If it were prominent it would read “Click here to Turn of Google Instant” but maybe I’m being too hard on the Goog.

You can turn it off if yes, you did click on the arrow. Otherwise it just looks like a note. Click the link and you land here to finish the deal.

Now, If I open up a search in Google from another browser (for instance, moving from Chrome to Firefox) and sign in to the same account, however, I have to repeat the process again to turn Instant off. Also, I feel like I have turned Instant off in the past but I am not convinced that it stays off but maybe that’s just me

So a quick note to Google:

A) Your directions to opt-out of Instant are not prominent and
B) Not staying opted-out using the same account but in a different browser is really annoying

So like most claims about something that was met with such animosity out of the gate that now claims near universal success, it is important to dig into the matter a little.

I think that Google’s claims of ‘success’ of Instant are just more evidence of their inability to know what the vast majority of their users actually do with the service (like never making changes to settings etc because they are just trying to search). I would love to see the make up of the 2% that opted-out of the service thus far. I bet they are the same folks who poo-poohed the idea back in September of 2010 when it was rolled out.

So what is your take on Google Instant? Is it the success that Google is proclaiming or is it just another case of Google making it hard for people to know if they are actually using a service or not and thus not knowing any better about getting out of it even if they wanted to?

  • Jared

    Instant is a success to me. It makes me realize Google already found what I am looking for before I finished typing my query. So I stop typing and click on the link.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. I love Google Instant. It makes searching quicker.

  • irish

    i like google instant. i’ve found it useful many times even as a fast typist.

  • Phil Segal

    Agree with your assessment wholeheartedly.

  • Marnie

    I rarely notice it since I use Chrome and search from the address bar. It’s only when I need to refine my results that I notice Instant. I like it when I remember it’s there tho :)

  • http://www.awebguy.com Mark Aaron Murnahan

    Come on, Frank. Are you just upset that you didn’t think of it first? ;-)

    You are a fun writer with some fun and useful thinking, but something clearly crawled up your pipes with this one.

    I submit that either side of the argument must be met with the realization that Google still holds the lion’s share of search for a very good cause. Technology changes, and Google does a very fine job to keep up, excluding their mishaps like Wave, Buzz, and a few others.

    I would be genuinely interested to learn why you have misgivings about the feature. Did it “break” something for you, or otherwise cause some sort of purposeful ire?

    I have been an SEO geek since Google was an infant. This one didn’t hurt me any more than when they stopped using their once vaunted PigeonRank algorithm. REF: http://www.google.com/technology/pigeonrank.html

    Really, Frank … level with us. Do you just need a hug? LOL

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      @Mark – Not sure what you’re talking about really. I just doubt very much that most people outside of search circles know about the ability to turn the feature on / off thus making Google’s claims suspect. It’s that simple. No vendetta just simple questions.

      Personally, the service has no impact on me since I use Chrome for all searches so it doesn’t come into play. For the record, I don’t like it (referred to that point from a Sept post) but that’s just me.

  • Peral

    I’m shocked by all the accolades. I suppose if you have a blazing fast ISP it may be a great feature but with my average connection speeds I find Google Instant to be a real pain. I KNOW what I’m searching for but Google Instant doesn’t allow me to finish my search before its starts freezing my screen throwing up links that only relate to a partial search.
    Yes, I KNOW I can shut it off & I do, but I shouldn’t have too. It shouldn’t default on.

  • Allan

    I really dislike Google instant. My preferred view is of the first 50 results, and to get that I have to 1) choose google instant off 2)save that setting, 3) go back into preferences, 4) select 50 results 5) save preferences and back to search. And as I use 4 different computers at home and work, and my preferences often seem to de-select, I seem to spend a lot of time doing this.