Google tests instant search feature

Company tries out ability to give users results that dynamically change as they type

The Internet is abuzz with talk about a new search feature that Google has been trying out.

Search-engine optimization consultant Rob Ousbey was among the first to notice that Google has been testing an instant search feature. That means search results start popping up as the user types, changing dynamically as the user continues typing.

A Google spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the test.

However, a source close to Google confirmed the veracity of Ousbey's video, noting that the test is being run on a limited basis. However she noted that there's no telling whether the experiment will become a new feature offered to all Google users.

Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala noted that an instant search feature would put a lot of strain on Google's system. Google itself has said that it handles about a billion searches a day. If the company suddenly had to produce dynamically changing search results on top of that already hefty load, it could put a lot of pressure on the computer systems running in the background.

"I think it would initially [add a lot of system stress] so they might face some short-term pain to get to the longer-term gain," Kerravala said. "Google has built out a tremendously robust infrastructure. And my guess is that with their resources, though, if [the new feature] became a big hit, other search engines would have a hard time keeping up."

Industry analysts have noted for months that Google's ongoing battle for search share with Microsoft's Bing search engine is bringing continuing waves of innovation.

Google, for instance, unveiled real-time search in recent months, along with personalized search results, and Google Goggles, a photo-based search.

Several analysts have told Computerworld that they expect this wave of search innovation to last well into 2011 as the two companies compete for a lucrative share of the search market.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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