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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Google Instant Search -- What Will You Do With The Five Seconds You Save?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge We just saved two seconds finding this image!
  • We just saved two seconds finding this image!
I'm not sure you and I will remember where we were when we received the news, on Sept. 8, 2010, that one no longer needs to hit return to view Google searches. (Your humble narrator was seated in his colleague's office, who bellowed, "This shit is ridiculous. All this hoopla over not hitting the return button." And, lo, our world was changed).

Google's much-repeated mantra is "Do no evil." With "Google Instant," they've taken a page from our medical providers: "Do no harm." I've been playing with Google Instant for a little while, and, at the very least, it's no worse than what we had before. This is not like the Coca-Cola people taking away our beloved sugarwater and foisting something new and unwanted on us. Google Instant merely shows search results while you're typing -- and you can ignore it or even shut it off.

Google's PR material boasts this can save us two to five seconds a search. Perhaps it will (and, perhaps impatient searchers will, even more than before, click on the items at the top of the list -- making it that much more valuable for businesses and news sites to max out their "Search Engine Optimization" and score well with the Google algorithm).

I can see where time could be saved. And I can also see where hurling information at users can be unwelcome -- do we really need to save two seconds?

Along that line, Google boasted about how much time could be saved by its legions of users  -- 3.5 billion seconds a day or 11 hours a second. That's great, but while "time is money," the two aren't synonymous. If I save even pennies a day, that represents real money after a while. But you can't amortize time so neatly. The 15 seconds I save on Google searches on a Wednesday don't necessarily mean more quality time with the wife and family. And they don't mean squat on Thursday.

click to enlarge No 'instant' results for that...
  • No 'instant' results for that...
After years of using Google Instant, you can't really say you've saved hours of time -- 10 seconds a day just doesn't add up like that. Employers might be able to claim they're getting more productivity from their workers -- but, like articles claiming NCAA Tournament brackets cost businesses a million, billion, gazillion dollars, this just seems to be a bit of a stretch.

Finally, here's what you were all waiting for. There is no Google Instant image search. And, even with "Safe Search" off, patently "objectionable" terms did not provide instant results. While, say, "amortize" produced a page full of links at the snap of a finger, "fuck you," "pornography," "Tera Patrick," and others did not return instant results.

Meanwhile, "molestation," "copulation," "Ron Jeremy," "fornication," and "Holocaust" did.

Is pornography more objectionable than the Holocaust? WTF? ("WTF" does return instant results, by the way).

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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