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Three reasons to turn off creepy Google Instant (and how to do it)


Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Three reasons to turn off creepy Google Instant (and how to do it)

    Google Instant is not for me. When I search, I don’t want Google to know where I am or what I like or to tell me things it thinks I am interested in. I don’t want a for-profit corporation to be what Sergey Brin wants Google to be – “the third half of your brain.”

    Call me old-fashioned but I’d rather not have my frontal lobes annexed, even by the geniuses of Mountain View.

    Three reasons I’m turning off Google Instant:

    1) Google Instant doesn’t improve the search experience.

    Let’s say I’m looking for information about Guantanamo. I start typing G- (Gmail!) Gu-(Gucci!) Gua-(the Guardian (UK newspaper), Guan— until finally getting some results about Guantanamo. On the way I’ve been distracted by the unlikely probabilities. For Google, it’s a smart proposition because I saw more advertisements. To me, I don’t want to shop for handbags while researching interrogation methods.

    2) Google Instant doesn’t save time.

    Google says that the primary benefit of Google Instant is speed:

    “The user benefits of Google Instant are many—but the primary one is time saved. Our testing has shown that Google Instant saves the average searcher two to five seconds per search. That may not seem like a lot at first, but it adds up. With Google Instant, we estimate that we’ll save our users 11 hours with each passing second!”

    But as Google admits (and Forbes reports here) you will most likely spend that saved time doing more searches.

    “Speedy results feel like success,” Udi Manber, vice president of engineering at Google told Forbes. “People search more because they get more interested in a subject.”

    3) The Creepy Factor.

    With Google Instant, the Googlers seem have reached a new pitch of enthusiasm for Big Brother-type formulations.

    Co-founder Brin whispers he wants only 33 percent of your brain.

    CEO Eric Schmitt coos, “We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: We know where you are, we know what you like.”

    Vice President Marissa Mayer warbles, “There’s even a psychic element to it.”

    Want to exit this psycho-party? Here’s how to escape Google Instant.

    To the right of the search box, in small letters, is the message “Instant is on.” Click the down arrow to turn it off “Off.”

    Now you’re getting Google’s “Query Suggestions/Autocomplete” under your search, which you may want to turn off, too. To use the search box without suggestions, use this link:

    (Discussions on how to turn off Instant and Suggestions continue on the Google Forums here and here. )


    8 Responses to “Three reasons to turn off creepy Google Instant (and how to do it)”

    1. xiroV Says:

      I feel like I’m really trying to get your point, but it doesn’t really get through.

      I truly think that live search feels like an success, and that it DOES therefore improve the search experience. I don’t think I would really “catch” any of those first links, as you say (gmail, gucci and so on), because it’s kind of logical to me, that there is a lot of things that start with the letter ‘g’, and guantanamo probably isn’t one of the first results.

      But right after checking the word “Guantanamo” with Google Instant Search, I can also conclude that “Guantanamo” appears, right after entering “Guant”, and there you got your saved time, on your search. I know it doesn’t take long to type “Guantanamo” and hit enter, but as you quoted google: “It all adds up”, and you can’t argue with that.

      And as you said, more advertisments will be shown with Instant Search, but if you think about it, it also cost a lot more power from the servers (nomatter if they are even recognizing it, or not).

      Last, about the whole privacy paranoia, I actually feel my information is safer at Google, rather than entering my name and email in this comment form.

    2. Dwight Stegall Says:

      I think Google Instant is a brilliant idea and it should be extended to all of their search services. I’m happy they gave us a way to disable it without us asking them too. I like it mainly because if I’m not sure of what I’m really looking for it quickly shows me many options. I find things many times faster now.

      You say you don’t Google watching you. Do you really think there is anyway to prevent that as long as you are on their server? You can’t sneeze without Google knowing about it. :)

      They can track me all they want. If that’s what it takes to make a better search engine so be it.

    3. dimonqui Says:

      “Google Instant is not for me. When I search, I don’t want Google to know where I am or what I like or to tell me things it thinks I am interested in. I don’t want a for-profit corporation to be what Sergey Brin wants Google to be – “the third half of your brain.”

      then why do u use google?

    4. Ron Says:

      I don’t understand what the hype is about. Compared to auto complete, there’s not really any difference other than the fact that it wastes more bandwidth. Compared to google data mining online and offline, the changes it makes to its homepage don’t seem significant at all. It doesn’t save nearly as much time as they claim and it’s seems to have more potential to be an annoyance to google users than a problem to others.

    5. Dave Says:

      Google instant is not anything new. If you had visited the Google code website ( and inspected their algorithms, you would have found that it is essentially using the same algorithms as their existing autocomplete that is so pervasive across the web, with an added automatic search function if you stop typing for a second.

      And as for the customized search, only what you enter into the search box is logged by Google, and none of your credentials. The customized search works by looking at your past visited sites and counting the keywords, then providing sites that carry similar keywords. Again, Google releases their code into the open for all to inspect, provided you are bothered to do so.

      And even if the average person is not able to read computer language, as consumer watchdog, it is your duty to be translating it truthfully to the consumers you aim to watch out for.

    6. harris david Says:

      Yeah Margot, I think the Google instant is some what creepy. When we started typing it shows results and the first 3 results will disappear from the SERP so its some what irritating. When you typed the entire word it again shows some probability and if we need to see first 2,3 results we need to press enter key/mouse. So what is the benefit in this?

    7. Dwight Stegall Says:

      If you don’t like Google Instant, then don’t use it. Why does it make sense to rag about it?

    8. Tom Says:

      I think most commenters are missing the point. With google instant, any link you click first goes through google and then google redirects you to the link’s site. Try it out. After turning on Google Instant (if it’s not already on) right-click on a link in the search results and select copy link. Then, paste it in a text editor. You’ll see the real link that they were hiding from showing in the browser’s status bar.

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