The company wanted to improve the search experience but realized that speeding up its servers would have negligible effect, Singhal explained. When Google receives a search query, it takes on average about 300 milliseconds to calculate the results and another 400 to send them back to the user’s computer. However, it typically takes a person 15 seconds to decide which result to click on and a further five to load a typical Web page.
“In cases where we are confident which result you will select, we are folding the five seconds into the 15 seconds,” said Singhal. When Instant Pages algorithms predict with sufficient confidence the most relevant result, they instruct the browser to start downloading and loading that page in the background right away. Users looking at the search results won’t notice anything new unless they click the result that was preloaded—in which case it will appear instantly. The feature currently only preloads a single page, said Singhal, although it may include other pages in future.
Other Web browsers could also employ Instant Pages, because Google has released the necessary code for all to use. “We are opening up the code because we want other browsers to implement it—it is good for the users and for the Web,” said Singhal.
As the same event, Google announced that users would soon be able to enter search queries on laptops and desktops via speech, a feature previously introduced for use on phones and tablets.
Another forthcoming feature will make it possible to drag an image into the search box instead of entering text. Google’s machine-vision technology will analyze the image to find Web pages with images of the same thing. A demo of this feature showed how a decade-old holiday snap could be used to discover the name of the place in Greece where it was taken.