Google is killing off Instant Search – so we can (temporarily) feel lucky again

What was Google Instant?

Google Instant was a predictive search feature that started to load the search results page as users were entering their search, effectively showing the top results for the autocompleted search query. The feature was introduced in 2010 under Melissa Mayer’s tenure at Google and was predicted (no pun intended) to shave 2-5 seconds from the time it took each user to search.

A Google spokesperson commented to Search Engine Land:

We launched Google Instant back in 2010 with the goal to provide users with the information they need as quickly as possible, even as they typed their searches on desktop devices. Since then, many more of our searches happen on mobile, with very different input and interaction and screen constraints. With this in mind, we have decided to remove Google Instant, so we can focus on ways to make Search even faster and more fluid on all devices.

Loading and reloading a results page every time a searcher types another letter can be an extremely frustrating experience on a mobile, especially on 3G or 4G. It’s bad enough that Google wants to use your location and reloads the whole page if you let it – and that’s only once.

Goodbye, I’m Feeling Lucky

Instant Search also meant the death of the I’m Feeling Lucky button which, although still found next to the Google Search button on Google’s homepage, lost some of its usefulness in 2010 when Google Instant rolled out. Currently a visitor can click I’m Feeling Lucky and get to the Google Doodles page – but previously the button could be pressed instead of the Google Search button to take the user directly to the first organic result. Since Google Instant, the results page has been loaded as soon as the user started to type, so there’s no way to know whether the button would have ever been clicked.

The Inquirer reported that the button’s functionality had been drastically reduced in September 2016.

According to Nicholas Carson, Google estimated in 2007 that 1% of searches went through the I’m Feeling Lucky button, meaning that ads weren’t shown for 1% of all searches, costing Google around $110m in revenue. Based on current trends I’ve estimated that Google will process 2,380,000,000,000 searches in 2020, up from the low hundreds of millions in 2007. Showing 1% more ads (bearing in mind that more of the results returned are now ads anyway) could pay off Google’s EU fine in a year or two.

Google has enough to worry about trying to get ads in front of the 20% of its mobile audience using voice search – there is absolutely no chance that the I’m Feeling Lucky button will still be there at the end of this year.

When Google introduced Instant, Mayer said Google wanted to keep the button because “it’s possible to become too dry, too corporate, too much about making money.”

Mayer doesn’t work for Google anymore.

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