Mystery of Google Doodles Answered: 'Google Instant'

Morphing, colliding balls took over the Google homepage on Sept. 7, 2010.

The big tease of the last few days is over: Google earlier today announced a search enhancement called Google Instant.

Google Instant, which is rolling out through the course of the day, evolved from the company's mission to speed up search results for Internet queries. The basic change means that users will find a changing set of results in the middle of the page each time they type in a character into the search box. The added technology is designed to help Google's search engine predict what a person might be searching for.

This predictive aspect anticipates the rest of a user query in light gray text while someone is typing. Another upgrade to speed up current search: a so-called `scroll to search' feature that lets users move through predictions and rapidly view the results as they move their cursor down the page. Here's how Google described it:

Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.

The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don't have to finish typing your full search term, or even press "search." Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way.

Google said the technology update would save 2-5 seconds per search. Consider that Google says it is now serving 1 billion users each week. One interesting tidbit worth mention: According to Google, if all its users switch over to the instant interface, it will amount to a savings of 11 hours of searching per second.)

Google Instant will become available on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE8, in that order. Selected international markets will be able to tap Google Instant over the next week. A future version of Google Instant is being developed specifically for mobile devices.

Here's a video that Google produced to demonstrate the new features: