Fast Company

Why Google Instant Is Good for Microsoft

For months, Google has been playing catch-up with Bing. When Microsoft added page-less image search, Google followed. When Microsoft unveiled a slew of search menu options, Google followed. And when Microsoft introduced background images, Google followed. (Microsoft's response? "We've lost a background image. If found, please return to bing.com.")

Today, however, Google is back on the offensive, launching one of the most dramatic updates in years to how we search on the Web. Should Microsoft continue this game of one-upmanship? Absolutely not. Here's why.

The whole point of developing new features and interfaces for Bing was to distance itself from Google. Yet with each change came a noticeably similar Google upgrade. How could Bing ever set itself apart with Google's reactionary mindset? The answer now is to simply stay where they are -- remaining, in effect, as Google Classic.

With each letter typed, results flash before your eyes in real-time--no "Search" button necessary. "Don't be alarmed," Google warns when users first try out its Instant search engine. "Feelings of euphoria and weightlessness are normal." But what about anxiety and seizures? For new users of Google's "streaming" search engine (see: the world), the service may be too overwhelming.

It's hard to imagine how anyone--especially the elderly test-subject Google showcased today as a satified customer--will be able to keep up with Google Instant without a combo platter of Red Bull and cocaine. (Why do you think they called their new indexing system "Caffeine"?) 

Let's try a search for Google Fast Flip. Punch in "F" to a Google search box, and loads of "Facebook" results now appear. By "Fas," there are miles of links to "fashion" sites. The next moment, "Fast" brings up page after page for "Fastenal," a leading supplier of industrial supplies. By "Fast F" users start seeing results for "Fast Food." And only by "Fast Fl" do we arrive at the correct results.

If that leaves you with a headache, you'll have to go a long way to find some "aspirin." "A" leads to "AOL"; "As" to "Ask.com"; "Asp" to the American Society of the Prevent of Cruelty to Animals...

So Google Instant plays right into Microsoft's hands -- especially given the company's "Search Overload Syndrome" ad campaign. Everything about Google Instant search screams search overload--the unfortunate side-effect of sifting through millions of results regardless of relevancy.

It seems likely that this shift in search technology may prove too radical or too overwhelming for many users. But will they just turn off streaming search--or turn off Google?

In today's press conference, Google boasted that only a "small percentage" of users in their tests turned off Instant search, and that they mainly did so because of connection issues. That seems an all-too rosy portrait of adoption rates. Clearly, there is a learning curve for such a novel service--after all, we've been clicking the "Search" button for more than a decade now. Doesn't it seem unlikely that users would latch onto Google Instant so, well, instantly? Maybe in Google's test-cases.

But out in the real world, Google's new service may not appeal to users so quickly. Now how--and where--do I search for "market share"? 

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11 Comments

  • imnottelling

    well bings from microsoft and its MICROSOFT windows (crome OS is just internet and notepad,etc(B A A A A D),but its free).

  • imnottelling

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'google redirect virus' is officially reffered to as of now 'search engine redirect virus'. bing should find a sollution to that. that would be nice. :) :D

  • imnottelling

    and theres a virus called the 'google redirect virus' it redirects you each time you click the link its a STUPID virus
    but if you have it you need to (if you still want to use google) right click and say open in new tab(if no tabs open in NEW WINDOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)i can see how that can frustrate somone like me but i somtimes have (literally) 8-15 tabs(8-15 windows with no tabbed would drive me CRAZY!!!!!!)

  • Jeremy Parsons

    Surely you're missing a major part of the point of instant search...

    What I want in search is the best answer first time. If I'm looking for something kind of obvious, chances are there's no benefit in the real time response. But who cares what search engine you use to find something obvious?

    When search really is search, the process can be laborious. I try a query - and the first page is full of irrelevant stuff, because either the query's not specific enough or I'm looking for the second or third main category of things suggested by my search terms. So I have to add words to give a stronger clue, or exclude terms that are taking the search the wrong way, or defeat the waves of 'SEO' detour junk.

    Instant response means that I'll often avoid the two, three, four pages I work through that first search before working out how to refine, and the two, three, four searches I try out on the way.

    I'm not convinced that search in two years will look much like this - the magic will be when search results feel to me like they have intuition. And I can believe Google will get to that point - probably in the same kind of way that Gmail has become arguably the world's best spam blocking mail system.

  • Brian Gatmaitan

    Bings web crawler is really awful! It does not update and it doesn't keep up with Google Search. The world is changing so fast and Microsoft is too big to move and slow to innovate. Searchers needs updated results and not dead links.

  • Techblogger

    Where did you get this bit of fantasy? How do you quantify search results from Google with results found by Bing?
    Never mind Brian, because you can't. If you could you would have said how you got to this. Then you move to the "broad brush" of company size and a nonsense assumption about what MS developers can and cannot do; things you can't possibly know.

  • Erwin Raaphorst

    haha... Google Classic new name for Bing? let me check.... damn! domain name already taken.. by... Google (LOL)

  • Terry Mullett

    Yeah, they're such copycats. Like last week I saw Steve Ballmer wearing these really cool jeans. Then yesterday I saw Eric E. Schmidt and he was wearing the same jeans! OMG!!!!