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Google Has Dropped Google Instant Search (searchengineland.com)
290 points by kjhughes 206 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 152 comments

This is awesome news. It was always a pain to set up my search engine to have instant off - and of course instant turns back on if you performed a second search on the results page of the no-instant page.

I have never once had my search experience enhanced by this anti-feature, and most of the time it's a hindrance, because I'll start reading the search results, then based on that come up with a new query and start typing it while continuing to scan the page. In non-instant world, maybe 60% of the time I'll end up finding what I want to click on as I continue to scan the page, then stop typing and click on that (or I'll be reading the name of someone that I want to google from the except from the page). In instant world, I have to read the whole page, decide if I need to make a new query, then type it (which is the exact opposite of the intent of instant, mind you).

The worst thing about Instant was that if you started typing something that didn't have results it wanted to display (because maybe it was a NSFW-type query or because it just didn't have good results for the incomplete string), rather than leaving the old page up until it had something it wanted to show, it would just blank the old page. Horrible.

Yeah, I worked for Oyster (www.oyster.com) and had NSFW instant search issues all the time -- if I mistyped our site domain with two W's as "ww.o" the Instant Search results displayed a rather lewd image. Uh, sorry boss, that wasn't what I was after.

I wasn't even aware of this feature, sounds dangerous indeed to jump the gun and search for things as I'm entering the search. Search suggestions make sense, overly eager premature searches not so much.

Probably shouldn't have tried to search for that ("ww.o") at work.

"...because I'll start reading the search results, then based on this come up with a new query and start typing it..."

This is a great example of how, from an ML/NLP standpoint, Instant-Search promoted confirmation-bias. If the idea is to learn how a user searches, that user should not be told how they should search.

Kind of how upvoted posts on Hacker News or wherever get more clicks just because more people get exposed to them. I guess you just have to be aware of it and take it into account. Is there any other way?

> It was always a pain to set up my search engine to have instant off - and of course instant turns back on if you performed a second search on the results page of the no-instant page.

Hmm, is it not just a matter of turning it off? Or are you doing something more advanced than using the standard Google search page?

I guess if you log in, yeah. I keep my browsing highly compartmentalized, so I don't log in to Google for the purpose of searches. I used URL parameters to turn it off, but they don't persist.

I don't log in either.

I would guess that the intention of the feature was not just to give users results quicker, but to also make them feel as if Google search is very fast. So it may have been effective even if you didn't click any links.

right meaning that they potentially lose out on valuable ad targeting data this way

> In non-instant world, maybe 60% of the time I'll end up finding what I want to click on as I continue to scan the page, then stop typing and click on that

My problem is I look at keywords from the results and want to use them to refine my search, and as soon as I type the first letter of my refinement, I lose access to the words I need.

And as you say, results on half words have never helped anyone, and there are already suggestions for what these half words might expand to.

> It was always a pain to set up my search engine to have instant off - and of course instant turns back on if you performed a second search on the results page

If you have an account it stays off? I always hated instant and disabled it, and never had to disable it again...?

Instant is great for atypical searches: when doing conversions or using Google as a calculator, then instant-search would give the result in the suggestion.

Oops, I should have added, that I never visit the website but use the Omnibar.

Looks like I'm in the minority here, but I really liked instant. I remember turning in instant from the omnibox in chrome, too. It showed that Google was at least willing to innovate in the search space -- and for some of us, it was a huge positive to have.

Yeah, I usually will start my Google searches in the Omnibox, then use the search bar on the page when I needed to find something new. In those use cases, instant is incredibly useful.

Man, do I hate the Omnibox with a passion. I wouldn't care so much if it wasn't the default.

Why don't you like it?

I hate the idea of moving elements around the entire window after I've started using them. I don't want to use the address bar as a search bar, but the overall problem is from a UX standpoint - you start typing into a textbox, and it vanishes/moves into the address bar. That's like starting to turn a knob on a door and your hand is suddenly somewhere else, like down near the bottom of the door or near the top. It's inconsistent and disruptive. It slows down the experience. I didn't come to the page to get tossed around everywhere, I came to search for something and get off of the page as quickly as possible.

And it moves the design closer to the horrible design creeping into applications today: instead of designing for every device, too many apps are designed for the worst platform, which is mobile. Capital One just redesigned their entire site for mobile, which added a lot more navigation/clicks for web users. That's just inferior design. Actually, it's not even design, it's just inferior hack layout.

We live in an era where original web page design was horrible, and somehow we continue to make pages harder and harder to use. There's a pervasive myth among app designers and startups to just 'remove' functionality instead of actually delivering smart functionality. Simplifaction for ease of use is geat, but most simplification is just reducing an app to a single button and just makes real functionality harder to use. Omnibox falls into that trend. Make the search results better, get rid of spam, and stop spending even one second writing code to move the text input around inexplicably.

Good design should be invisible - I shouldn't notice it. Moving elements around after I've started interacting with them is just unnecessary annoyance with no benefit to me as a user. I don't want another crappy universal search bar, which is all this is. I just want to enter a search and move to the next page, so I can try and sift through the crappily selected results Google spits out. I already know Google's results are going to be poor enough I'll have to wade through them, why slow me down up front?

And so on.

This seems to be the "new tab/page" box which every browser does, moving from center of page to address bar.

You can easily switch to a different new page or use the address bar from the beginning.

I know that, because that's what I do. But my point is, I shouldn't have to know how to 'hack' around the browser just to use a textbox. That's really inferior UX design. I shouldn't even be thinking about any of that, I should be thinking about what the Google results are, not how to use Google.

What are you hacking around? Why not just use the address bar all the time?

then why putting an input area in the middle of the page with inviting prompt "search google or type url"? simple act of entering search terms and pressing Enter button - instead turns into a mental game of "if it is a brand new search, then search terms will appear in url bar no matter where i type them; when search results come, my search terms will be copied to the input box on the page and later can be edited there". sorry, this is just plain stupid. sounds like an executive design, no normal developer would come up with this crap.

Then why does Google have a textbox on the app? Why not just put a blank page as their front page? And why does the textbox only suddenly move your input from a web app element to a browser element in only this one instance?

What solution does this solve for me, the user, to have to determine that in this one instance, the textbox can't be used, but on literally every other application out of millions of web applications, text boxes work correctly?

I really liked instant too, except I just liked it for the keyboard shortcuts. After submitting a query, I could press <tab> then use the up/down arrows to select, then <cmd>+<enter> to open the links in a new tab.

Does anyone know of Google search keyboard shortcuts even without instant?

I'm surprised there's not an extension out yet to return the functionality.

I also liked search quite a bit. I was very impressed with the fantastic engineering and the overall UX. But I guess I won't miss the feature big time.

Good riddance.

This was a marketing feature more than anything else so google could boast about how fast their search engine was. However, it always had tons of usability problems for no added benefit to the user, especially when refining a previous search, or trying to retype some funky word you found in the results.

Yes, part of it was marketing, but there were benefits, too, e.g. for slow typers, which of course do not abound in this corner of the Internet.

When I fractured my collar bone in a bicycle accident I lost the use of my right arm for 6 weeks to a sling while the bones healed. So I bought a "half keyboard", a curious but functional contraption that uses the space bar to invert the left side of the keyboard into the right side of the keyboard, so that I could do full touch typing with only my left hand.

The irony is it took about 4 weeks to get up to a useable speed. I kept using it for almost two years afterwards because it was so nice to have a trackball in my right hand and complete control of the keyboard with my left hand, and not have to ever move either hand.

The main point is that during this time I was a slow typist, and looking at the screen while doing it. It was rather agonizing. Deep sympathies for disabled individuals was developed during that time.

That sounds pretty interesting, but egads, why in the world are half-keyboards so bloody expensive! And this from someone who's bought a few fancy ergonomic keyboards in his day. But it seems to me that a half-keyboard could be a pretty good ergonomic option since you wouldn't have to worry about find a keyboard with the right fixed angles for two arms.

In my experience these slow typists also tend to look at the keyboard while they are typing - not at the screen. Thereby completely negating the benefit for this group of people.

I guess that for the intersection of slow typists who look at the screen while typing, Instant Search is useful. But how big is this intersection really?

You're right to some degree, but there were lots of user studies done. It was a net positive.

One of the amusing things was that users would follow the instant results without necessarily being consciously aware of them. I.e., when describing their interactions with prototypes, only a few noticed and pointed out that they were getting results without pressing Enter, yet a larger number clicked on them. It had to be pointed out to them, at which point they would often go "whoa". I remember a few non technical users who really raved about it.

I wonder if something clever could be done to automatically switch behavior over time based on keystroke timings, suggestion selection behavior, etc.

Maybe it would just end up feeling random and unreliable though.

When were search suggestions incorporated into the UX?

My sample set of 1 (mom) types char, then looks at screen on loop.

That must be even more excruciating to watch than my mom, who types the entire search string while looking at the keyboard.

If I try to hint and say, "look, there's an autocompletion thing that has already guessed correctly what you are painfully trying to write, why don't you click the top suggestion?" she just shushes me away (she's busy concentrating on typing). So I have stopped doing that, and am now just resigned to sit and wait, whenever these things happen.

For super slow typists, they don't trust their ability to hit the correct key, so they look up frequently to check that they don't have a typo.

Auto suggest helps slow typers or people that aren't sure of how to spell way more than displaying a hodge podge of results that change quickly.

I rather liked Instant Search but it dawns on me that I hadn't noticed it's absence as I never go to the Google homepage any more. Searching from the address bar is all I ever do - and that doesn't seem to have changed.

Wow, finally.

This was such a disruptive feature. Completely distracting from the moment you interact with the page. This wasn't a productivity bonus in any way, regardless of purported reading recognition rates and eye tracking/movement measurements.

No, computer. You wait until I'm finished. You wait until I tell you I want you to do something. You don't jump at every flinch of my fingers. Not all interactions require reaction.

Now if only they would stop swapping Images, News, and Shopping link around based on my search. I want a picture of whatever I searched for, that's why I clicked the button next to 'All' like I have a thousand times before - don't reorder your damn links from page to page!

Oh man, I hate that, especially when it pushes up Maps and relegates Videos to the "More" menu. Google tries to be way too clever for its own good.

Yep, that's the worst. Reordering static-looking buttons is awful, but promoting options in and out of a secondary menu is completely deranged design.

Oh man, thought it was just me. Always hated that 'feature'

Meanwhile at google:

A: "We could save hundreds of millions in hardware resources if we disabled instant search."

B: "But we might lose money if we don't show as many ads. OH WAIT..."

The guy did a search and realized that the suggestion menu overlaps on the top of the page, where the ads are displayed.

He then tried to click the ad and he couldn't because the ad results changed the moment he moved his cursor away from the search bar.

It took them 7 years to realize their mistake!

I was intrigued that nobody was talking about the revenue effect of the removal of Instant Search. Obviously they did it because of this.

I'm pretty sure they turned on Instant Search in 2010 in order to serve more ads not fewer.

The extra load due to this feature was not insignificant. I heard it was the equivalent of an entire datacenter.

The most annoying part is still there -- of the home page morphing into the search results page as soon as text is typed. It is a totally nonsensical design.

1) Type stuff into google.com 2) Delete all the text

You are now on a totally empty results page. Why is this a sensible design?

On top of that it's a constant perplexing hindrance for Luddites like myself who insist upon using the backspace key to navigate back a page, instead leaving me wondering why my search results page is refreshing instead.

Every. Single. Time.

I know, I know, it's my fault. But it's not.

You can also use Alt-LeftArrow, which works even if a text input field had focus.

Didn't Google even disable backspace to go back in Chrome somewhen last year? Or did they revert that again?

And well, there's many keyboards out there with no right Alt, meaning that you have to use two hands to execute that shortcut. So, I really don't think, it's a good idea to try to force people away from using backspace, as bad of a key as it is to be using for this...

I know, I know :)

It's just muscle memory - I've been using backspace since '97 or so.

Do people frequently use the Google Homepage for search? I've always just used the address / search bar via Ctrl+K shortcuts for instant searching. Why waste time going to google.com directly?

TIL: CTRL+K shortcut is F6 + TYPE

No, that'd be more like Ctrl+L. Ctrl+K is specifically for your default search engine, wheres Ctrl+L and F6 work for links and other search engines as well.

This isn't happening for me. Try it in incognito mode, maybe?

They already turned instant search off. Without instant search it doesn't go to a results page when you start typing.

oh you're right! it must have been cached.

I hated the "instantness" of Instant Search but loved the keyboard shortcuts which seem to have disappeared. I used TAB and the arrow keys to select a search result and Ctrl+Enter to open the result in a new tab.

It is very, very sad that it is no longer possible to use those.

Yes to me it is insane that Google doesn't provide native keyboard shortcuts (at least make it an option) for the search results page. It is available on Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, etc. Why not Google search??

Download and use vimium. "<esc> f" pops up a tool-tip next to every link visible, with a one or two character sequence to open that link.

It is awesome. I love it. Speed boost.

If you use Chrome, I recommend https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/jk-shortcuts-navig...

You can press j to scan forward one result and k to scan backwards and enter or command enter to jump to a result

It works on a bunch of other sites too like hacker news and reddit!

I am NOT the author


I completely hated how as I was typing I would change my mind and decide maybe I did want to click on a link only to see it instantly disappear. Then the back-button didn't work as expected, so I just ended up having to re-type my query.

Every time.

> having to retype my query

Especially annoying when testing multiple queries to find the optimal one and you decided that a query of 3 submissions ago was the most effective and you couldn't remember it precisely.

I loved this feature! This makes me sad. It really shouldn't be a big deal to let people enable it for their own accounts or to just disable it for mobile. I don't see the benefit of just getting rid of it completely.

Thank God.

This feature has been the bane of my Google existence. I often want to hit backspace to go back a page, but because their search bar steals my focus, I instead remove a letter or two and perform a search again.

I have never, not once, found this feature to be useful. Who doesn't type faster than they can read a page of results?

Removal of instant shouldn't change the behavior of the search bar's focusing. I haven't noticed what your'e talking about, though.

They have appeared to have implemented disabling instant search by simply reverting all post-instant search antifeatures:

No instant search

No steal focus on result page (and thus, no breaking backspace)

No overriding arrow key scroll into weird blue-arrow modal UI

Basically 2010 era google, all at one stroke.

The result quality is still kind of meh though.

@bcoates claims that it will. I assumed it would because the whole 'steal your focus' thing was implemented at the same time iirc.

So "I'm Feeling Lucky" is a real and clickable button again!

Would have been before, too, if you had JavaScript disabled, wouldn't it?

But yeah, that is interesting. They supposedly lose/lost a lot of money from that button, as it skips past their ads.

Also, they are supposedly redesigning the Google Homepage [0], moving away from having just the search field there to having a news feed, the weather and some such there as well.

So, maybe this change is in anticipation of that and maybe they'll also tuck some ads into there then, to actually monetize the time people spend on their homepage.

[0]: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/20/google-ch...

Instant search was one of the reasons I moved to DuckDuckGo. Google could learn a lot from DDG. There's so many actually usefull features on the results page that now I feel lost when I'm using Google.

Good. This was their most useless and wonky feature. Not sure how this was supposed to change search.

Yes, this feature had negative value for me. A common use case is that I'm copying keywords from search result snippets back into the search bar to make a more refined followup search, and Instant Search snatches the result away while I'm trying to copy text from it.

This is exactly what drove me crazy about it.

Does anybody really look at the Google home page any more? Browsers and mobile devices all have search boxes now. Bing tried putting good artwork on their home page, and nobody noticed.

Google's "robots.txt" file doesn't let bots read their home page. Most other pages on Google are bot-readable, but not the home page. It's like they don't want it to be indexed by other search engines. That might change once it gets content.

I noticed the art. :)

I thought it was funny because they touted how relevant their search results were then blasted you with seemingly random pictures.

Google Doodle!

I had Instant Search on for just one reason: movement with arrow keys. Since they killed it's bothering me, I hope they bring at least this option back. If not does anyone else has a solution?

This. Having to switch to the mouse just to click the first or second search result on the list is going to be really annoying. I hope they bring the keyboard shortcuts back.

ahh so that's what happened to the keyboard nav

Suddenly, I can no longer navigate between results using Tab -> Arrow Up/Arrow Down.

Was this removed as well? :-/

That feature has never worked with Instant Search disabled. I've had to go into search settings and re-enable Instant Search several times now just to get that feature back. Looks like it's gone for good now though.

Oh Lord - hijacking the arrow keys, which I use for page-scrolling, is one of the most annoying things ever. Kill it with fire!

Google's the only site where I prefer navigating with arrow keys, mostly because it's a list, as opposed to something like prose (where I want to take my own sweet time to read the page).

It's a list of search results - why scroll when you can directly pick the result?

In Firefox I can hit / or ' to type the link I want and hit enter. When sites mess around with keyboard shortcuts it makes my browsing experience inconsistent and disorienting.

That's a very slow and technical way but you can still do that if you want.

I wouldn't describe it as slow. Rarely need type more than a few characters and I don't need to count.

This is a definitely a step backwards... there's no reason to scroll when the entire point is to select a search result.

I think this feature might have helped people who are slow at typing.

May be off-topic, but I remember an incidence from Home Depot when I asked a staff member to look something up for me. She pulled up a browser (think it was IE), typed google in the nav bar (perhaps to get to google.com) and got the bing search result for search term 'google'. Then she continued on to use the bing search to look for Home Depot's site (I assume she was thinking she is searching on Google).

I didn't get what I was looking for, but I did leave wondering about use-case or user interaction scenarios like this that I would have never thought of.

Yeah, I think that Instant Search must have had its value for people, even if not much for me.

While we're at it, how about bringing back the search box at the bottom of the page, too?

Auto complete is already an awesome feature to have, instant search is clutter, it creates too much traffic, and sometimes it doesn't work (nothing shows for a while).

Now it would be nice if google would stop choosing french as a search language because I live there, I have to set it up everyday and I don't want to enable cookies... I don't know if I can access google with english as default in some special page.

Have you tried using google.com/ncr?

Does this mean we can regain the backspace-to-go-back that's been everywhere since forever, but was killed by Chrome because of instant search?

I really hope not; I can't count the number of times I've lost a bunch of data because I hit backspace when I thought I was focused on a text field. Alt+Left is plenty convenient, I don't run the risk of data loss, and I always know what it's going to do.

IIRC backspace-to-go-back was not killed because of instant search, it was killed because users kept going back when they didn't mean to, because they thought they were typing in a text box and weren't.

There's still e.g. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/backspace-to-go-ba... but IMO it's ridiculous to not just make this an option. Hide it in a flag. https://venturebeat.com/2016/08/14/restore-backspace-shortcu... they decided that 400k users was not enough to warrant a flag for.

But hey, cmd+q to quit immediately, with "warn before quit" off by default is a great idea. No need to look at that one or make it possible to change the key bind. Never mind that it's one key away from cmd+tab.

This is the kind of stuff you get when you make decisions based on A/B testing.

There's a hack to sort-of disable the keybind: Go to chrome://extensions/ and open "Keyboard Shortcuts" (bottom right). Pick an extension you don't use anymore (or install one), and set the shortcut for "Activate the extension" to cmd+q or ctrl+shift+q.

Yes, it was killed for this reason. Singular hotkeys that drastically alter state are a horrible UI design decision. When commanding, controlling, or altering a program, the trigger should be an explicit action. One accidental key stroke should not be catastrophic.

That's right, but it incidentally also meant google saw it fit to highjack backspace to not mean go back in any browser when on google.com, and just use it to remove characters from the search box, regardless of whether or not it's focused. The end result is that using backspace in browsers that do support it, such as safari, is now broken whenever google is part of that tab's history. If instant is removed, then there's little need to keep this bit of annoying code I'd think.

I probably could have been clearer in my original comment, my apologies.

I didn't mind it, but I wont miss it either. I usually end up typing my whole search as a matter of "my brain sent these words to my fingers and my fingers are going to type until they are done" kinda thing anyway, so it was a wasted feature

Never found this particularly nice to use, at least this will drop their server load a bit.

I'd be interested to see if this is actually true.

Whether it is actually true is going to be entirely based on what you consider to be "a bit" of server load.

They had to return data for many search results on entry, in addition to suggested autocomplete. Now they just return suggested autocomplete. I'm sure everything in google instant is served from a cached cdn, but it's still going to be "some" server load that is removed.

https://google.com/webhp?complete=0 still works for me. No instant, no suggestions, just type and press enter.

I suspect this has more to do with recent European regulations than anything else. Instantly sending search queries without [explicit] confirmation is a minefield of liability for the company.

God, instant search was such a pain. So much in fact that instead of typing anything into Google when it was on, I used to type it out in Notepad or another editor and paste that into the box instead. Just found it incredibly distracting otherwise.

Nice to know they've gotten rid of it.

Why did they drop it exactly? How does removing it makes search "more fluid on all devices" (according to TFA). I'm not complaining, but I suspect the attention bandwidth now left on the table is going to be plastered with something else soon enough.

This way always a bad idea, and I imagine the excuse of "now more users are on mobile" is just there to protect Marissa Mayer's reputation. You should be able to reference the results on a search page as you type your next search.

Did anyone else notice they reduced the number of autocomplete fields from 10ish to 4? I really dislike this change for discoverability reasons.

Is there a way to change this?

Did the auto search terms contribute to things like Google trends? like half finished searches effecting popularity of an adwords search phrase or similar?

This feature was never useful. Not to mention wasted bandwidth. Glad it's dead. Just give me simplicity.

Dang. Now I don't have a legit excuse for pausing to view the results for NSFW prefixes of SFW search terms. Ex: sex[tant]

The article web site crashes Chrome.

I won't miss it, I disliked searching when I found my result with partial word and see it for a split second but lose it as I finish typing the word, not reacting quickly enough. Having to backtrack character by character to find it was frustrating. I'd rather just click "search" and not have to deal with the letter by letter tweaking.

'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'

I honestly cannot understand your sentiment, how can knowing something you are interested in exists be worse than not knowing at all?

Glad it's gone. Probably it's more about energy saving and DC optimization.

Good. And now stop changing Google. I don't want to be surprised every time I use your tools.

(Edit: And that holds for the doodle too. They are sometimes funny, but not so much so as to warrant making me lose focus. I'm working, not watching TV)

My least-favorite change is that the All/Image/Shopping/News buttons on the search page rearrange based on your choice of term. Static-looking features shouldn't shuffle themselves around based on my form inputs!

(It's worse because I've never wanted the Shopping button, ever, but it's bad design regardless.)

Finally! I always felt this feature was weird and abrupt.

Well there goes an entire category of meme. RIP internet.

The search suggestions are still there, so the various memes around "why do ..." still work. The part that's been removed is that Google Instant used to start showing you the results page as you typed, before hitting enter.

Ohhhhh. I misunderstood. Thank the lulz gods.

Not really, the memes revolve around the suggested auto-completions which the article says will still be around.

On the topic of annoying Google features, did they recently make it so that links to search results opened in new tabs? Is that a feature that one can turn off? It's eating up my iOS tabs!

i used instant search to simply see what other people search, laugh, then proceed to finding whatever i want to find by searching myself

The reason, Google wants to display some content (cards with news/trending topics) on the Google frontpage.

suggestions are awesome - instant results, less so. overall, a good choice.

Poor Mayer ..

I hated, thanks

Please drop support for google AMP or make it optional. Half of the Indian mainstream media is not available on it.

Whenever I see "Google Instant" reference, I get always chuckle because I swear that two of my friends and I actually invented it back in '09 for a Yahoo sponsored Hackathon.

I clearly remember one day logging onto my machine, going to google to search for something and just sitting there with my jaw on the ground as the "instant" feature began searching as I typed. I must've sat there for at least 5 minutes. I then proceeded to call my friends and made them go to google to "just execute a query". The response was "those motherf&kers actually ripped off our idea".

I will say, while the idea was "new" (no one was doing it at the time as far as we were aware of), the hackathon code was pure garbage PHP and JS fueled by free pizza & soda and stitched together to leverage the Yahoo APIs.

We went back and actually looked at our server logs (it was running a .edu/students/ site at the time as part of our portfolios) and noticed SIGNIFICANT traffic spikes from Google & MSFT registered corp IPs. Unfortunately, we figured there was nothing we could do to prove that we* invented it.

Something for you to chuckle at:

- Only reference I could find is a wayback link to the 2009 hackathon page ("Skynet Search" was also 'contextual' and knew if you wanted images or maps or directions without having you to make extra clicks). There used to be a blog post mention on yahoo as we got some runner-up prize. [1]

- Google Instant Launched Sept 2010 [2]

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20091024035258/http://developer.... [2] https://www.google.com/doodles/google-instant-launch

I had instant search on documentation files in ... 1991.

And I'm fairly sure I wasn't the first to think of that either.

Just because you think you think of something 'first' doesn't mean you really are the first and doesn't mean that your idea is being ripped off by others, most likely they were totally unaware of 'your' idea, just like they were unaware of mine.

Most of these are obvious anyway.

Fair enough.

>Google Instant launched in 2010 under the leadership of Marissa Mayer. Mayer called this change a “fundamental shift in search”....

So Mayer does it again, lol. My favorite thing is how this lady was praised as some sort of genius for managing the Google search page - as if that page is some marvel of modern engineering and not just a webpage with and input and no background.

Hm, let's not have personal attacks here, especially for a topic on which you do not have any personal experience.

Having worked on Google Search during this period, I can say definitively that your comment is mostly incorrect. Features at Google are generally bottom-up driven. Mayer was in many ways acting as a gatekeeper to keep some of the crazier stuff from harming the experience or brand.

If I'm attacking anything, it's her record as a leader. We can agree to disagree on that, but I see nothing personal in my comment.

Secondly, the heart of my comment is how some people are raised up to insane heights on mediocre achievements. Even if she was a great "gatekeeper" as you say, there's really nothing in that skill that sounds particularly impressive and certainly not worth the obscene amounts of money and praised heaped upon her up until her public fall from grace.

And while I'm at it I suppose I should chime in on Instant - always seemed like a waste of resources to me. What is so hard about hitting Enter? Personally it always annoyed me. Obviously many people will disagree with me but when I found out that one of the most annoying changes to google search had been pushed hard by Mayer I couldn't help but comment.

Well, there was a lot of bottom-up work, but in this case Instant was pushed by Marissa. A lot of infrastructure had to be built, scaled and tuned before launch, so that the demos could actually serve the millions of users, their wonky browsers or ISPs, etc.

Also worked on Google Search during this time period. Wasn't directly on the Instant team, but I did some work on it (it was a big enough project that it touched basically everyone in Search). The folks who originated the project were org-chart cousins of mine (i.e. their boss's boss was my boss's boss), and I later ended up serving under their manager.

The real driver for Google Instant was Larry. He saw a demo that had been floating around and said "I want that." When one of the founders wants something, they tend to get it.

I agree that she supported the launch, but Marissa wasn't involved in any of the infrastructure work, machine planning, etc.

Of course she wasn't involved in making things work efficiently and reliably, since that never was her responsibility, but the whole reason all of that had to happen was because she decided to turn what normally would be one of the many, many cool internal demos into a public, differentiating feature (and got signoff from upper management). I'll miss Instant on desktop, for the record. It was a great achievement to implement in a relatively short period of time.

I think you're being slightly unfair here in assigning credit/blame/what-have-you.

I agree with you that she liked it, and signed off on the product. However, we had to scale the infrastructure 7x. That wasn't a VP level of money, that was a BoD level of money. The decision to push the launch was made by Eric.

I wouldn't quote numbers (or multipliers) here, but my recollection is that, after a lot of tuning, it was lower than what you mention, at least in the section of the stack that I was involved with. Of course, the board had to give some kind of sign off (which is what I meant by upper management), before even knowing the full price :-), but the case for this differentiating feature was being made by Marissa. It wasn't merely signing off. I don't remember anyone ever bringing up Eric when talking about it. If anyone, it was her, for good or for bad. She stuck with it even if early iterations were clunky, slow or inefficient. I'll grant her that she started with something that I thought unfeasible and almost a pipe dream, eventually seeing it turn into something actually useful, with the help of hundreds (Eng, PM, UX, etc.).

(Reached reply depth)

7x infra to support it...what was the value prop for this?

I have no idea where that number comes from. I seem to remember that a naive implementation would have required 10x or so the existing resources (proportional to the characters in the average query at the time... We know they've been getting longer over the years). But that's not at all what was released. Also remember that this is just the serving path. Crawling is not affected, while for indexing...it depends.

My service did not get 7x the resources for launch. We did bring up more capacity, but we also improved things here and there. That's work that would have been needed anyway.

Last but not least, there were infrastructure improvements that helped reduce resources in search and other products. Bob Wyman's LinkedIn page says that his team helped with Instant, but also saved AdSense 100k+ cores, while increasing serving capacity and reducing latency.

As for the value: speed, differentiation and sheer coolness.

She was the public face of this work:


I wouldn't have expected a VP to be involved in infrastructure, and machine planning.

The feature was live for 7 years. That's longer than the majority of the companies in SV even exist.

Agreed though the effect this page has on how billions of people consume information is huge - I think the idea was to close the gap as much as possible on 'have a thought -> receive information'.

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