It's a testimony to the importance of Google in our daily lives that Google Instant -- a flashy but not particularly revolutionary tweak to the search engine UI -- has created such, well, instant buzz. The change could help Google squeeze more money from its core search advertising business in the short run, though the new money found will be more of a marginal boost than a gold rush.
Google's Marissa Meyer spun a picture of Instant as a boon to a time-starved Net-searching world, claiming that with every passing second the feature saves 11 person-hours of search time. But impressive as this aggregated number may sound, the days when anyone thought that Google implemented cool new features just to make users' lives better have long passed. The number we really ought to contemplate is what the impact of the service on the search giant's bottom line will be.
Predictably, it will be good. Instant searching will probably encourage less complex queries, which bring up more and better paid search ads. And search ads refresh as users type, providing more opportunities for users to click and earn money for Google. Still, such a route to revenue -- extracting maximum value out of existing users by packing more ads into time they already spend on the site -- smacks of the sort of gaming we've seen from cash-starved websites (articles spread out over multiple ad-strewn pages, sites that auto-refresh with new ads as you read) and seems a little beneath an innovative company like Google.
But truth be told, Google needs that kind of marginal revenue if it's going to continue to grow. Despite the company's seeming omnipresence in the high-tech world, the vast majority of its revenues still come from search ads. All the betas and groundbreaking technologies we've seen over the years haven't changed that fact.
A correction was made to this article on Sept. 10, 2010.
This article, "Google Instant: Less innovation, more profit," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.