Internet Tech News

Google Kills Instant Search Because Smartphones

Dave Parrack 26-07-2017

Google is killing Instant Search, which rendered search results in realtime as you typed. The problem, according to Google, is we all now do most of our searching on smartphones 5 Reasons Not To Buy A Smartphone You may feel pressured into buying a smartphone, even though you're perfectly happy with your (so-called) dumbphone. Don't be. Read More , and Instant Search makes no sense on smartphones. So killing the feature is the only sensible option.


Google introduced Instant Search in 2010, with then-vice president of search and user experience (catchy title) Marissa Mayer, calling the feature a “fundamental shift in search”. At the time it felt quite innovative, and capable of shaving precious milliseconds off of searches.

Everything Has Changed Since 2010

However, fast-forward to 2017 and the search landscape feels very different. Now, more than half of all Google searches happen on mobile devices. And Instant Search has never really been a thing on smartphones. This changing of the guard has prompted Google to kill Instant Search.

A Google spokesperson told 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.”

Google will still autocomplete searches as you type. However, it will no longer load the results for those searches. Most people probably won’t even notice this change as they would keep typing rather than scroll down to the relevant search results as they appeared. In fact, many people turned off Instant Search as they found it more of a hindrance than a help.

Rendered Obsolete By Innovation

Instant Search once felt like the future. But now, with almost all of us reaching into our pockets for our smartphones Why This Technology Blogger Does Not Own a Smartphone [Opinion] "Do you have a smartphone yet?" It's a question my friends ask often, and it's a reasonable one to ask. I make my entire living writing about technology, explaining how to use software and interviewing... Read More when we want to find something online, it feels like it belongs to a bygone age. This is innovation in one area rendered obsolete by innovation in another area.


Have you ever made use of Google’s Instant Search results? Were you even aware this was a feature? Will you miss those precious few milliseconds it saved you on occasion? And do you buy Google’s reasoning for getting rid of Instant Search? The comments are open below…

Image Credit: Frankieleon via Flickr

Related topics: Google, Google Search, Web Search.

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  1. Gazoo
    July 31, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    Mixed feelings. I got used to it whenever I used Google Search (mostly use privacy-respecting alternatives now). What bothered me more than anything else was the deterioration of the language! It got really annoying seeing instant search spew out broken phrases.

    It got to the point that I had to type in my strings or sentences the way I might've seen them expressed in instant search. I had imagined that the algorithm was being tweaked to the way the general public communicated. This is fine except that most articles aren't written that way. There was this disconnect between how people expressed themselves and how content writers expressed themselves. Reminded me of the film 'Idiocracy'.

    At any rate, I don't think much is going to change internally in terms of pulling up searches. Google used to be so much better at finding stuff. Now it seems to cater to an infantile mindset - pulling out current popular trends or clique-ish articles no matter what you type in.

  2. Chris
    July 28, 2017 at 7:08 am

    I liked this feature even on a smartphone. I guess with auto complete it won't feel much different, but I remember many searches where a phone number or whatever I needed popped up immediately after just a few characters typed.

  3. Fik of Borg
    July 27, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Some smartphone users are also desktop PC users, you know.
    Was it too hard to keep instant search only if done from a desktop browser? Most big sites already offer different pages to smartphones and desktops.

    • Dave Parrack
      July 27, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      That wouldn't fit in with Google's policy of keeping its design choices consistent across platforms. Did you use this feature often then?

      • Fik of Borg
        July 27, 2017 at 4:08 pm

        Fair point, but Google (and others) already serve slightly different layouts to better fit the browsing device, and besides that, instant search does not alter the layout much (or will the enforce a thin and tall screen on desktops too? I kid. I think.)
        I often find myself typing two or three words and finding what I'm looking for before tying the rest. I hope they at least keep autocomplete.

  4. Fabio Peruzzo
    July 27, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    I used to use this feature. I will miss it a lot.

    • Dave Parrack
      July 27, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      I bet all those saved milliseconds added up to, ooh, at least a couple of minutes over seven years ;)

      • m
        August 20, 2017 at 4:34 pm

        You can stop trying to convince people this change is good. I only search from desktop and instant had saved me on the order of 250 hours this year alone.

        How much is Google paying you?

  5. MikeO3
    July 27, 2017 at 12:13 am

    Don't care... I stopped using Google search directly because they decide what you should see and who pays them the most for the results you get.