Google is launching a new search function, called Instant, that predicts and displays what is being looked for before the user has finished typing.
The feature, which will be rolled out Wednesday afternoon, is similar to the existing search engine’s predictive text ability, which suggests terms as the user is typing. Instant, however, displays full results — along with ads — below the search window that change as text is added.
If the user types in the word "flow," for example, Google Instant will predict that the term "flowers" is being searched and display the relevant results. But if the user continues typing and inputs "flow c," the feature will predict that "flow chart" is being searched and change what is displayed.
Google Canada spokesperson Andrew Swartz said Instant will save users about two to five seconds per search. When factored into the number of searches performed, that means a total of 3.5 billion seconds will be saved each day, or about 11 hours every second.
"[Users] don’t need to complete the query to see results, so they might get half way through before they see what they want," he said.
The new feature will push the limits of Google's infrastructure and technology, Swartz added.
"For each query we're going to serve five to seven times as many results because it's going to keep changing as the query becomes more defined."
The feature will only initially be available in English through Google.com, and users will have to have the latest web browsers installed: Chrome 5, Firefox 3, Safari 5 or Internet Explorer 8.
Users will also be able to opt out and keep regular search, Swartz said.
The new function will also display advertisements, which will dynamically change just like the search terms.
The function is likely to inflate ad impressions (ad views), although Swartz said that won't cost advertisers anything. An impression will only be counted if the user clicks on a displayed search result, hits enter on a suggested search, or if the page is viewed for three seconds or longer.
"Once you have a three-second pause, it’s likely the user is actually looking at the page, so it counts as an impression," Swartz said.