Google is currently the top search engine company in the industry, both in terms of market share and technology. To reach the top spot in an Industry which analysts predict could balloon in to a multi-billion dollar one, it took a Google that has an abundant supply of innovation, great foresight and to a big extent, a stealthily-developed arsenal of one the best and most advanced Search Engine Technology the whole Industry has ever seen (or not seen, since Google is trying its best to keep competitors in the dark about the true extent and power of their biggest weapon - their clusters of datacenters). Although they're at the front of the pack right now, Google and its army of engineers are in no way sitting on their laurels. Innovation is what brought them where they are now, and innovation is definitely what they're continually using to bring the company forward. Google's engineers are continually working on ways to improve their search engine's performance and to give additional features that will enhance user experience.
Although it could be very easy to miss because of its sheer simplicity, speed is one of the key reasons why Google is number one. They understood early on that in order to provide a top-notch user experience, search results must be delivered to the user in the shortest time possible. Even when on a dial up connection, Google has designed its search engine in such a way that the web search results appear in a snap. One might say that Google has perfected the speed aspect of search engine results delivery, but displaying the list of results is just half of the story. What happens when a user clicks on the result is also an important component in the overall experience of the search engine user. Google therefore wants to improve on the Internet for the user searching for information. Improving the speed of the Internet for the users is also important to Google's other mission: to bring software applications that a user uses from the desktop to the web. The idea of network computing is something that is not entirely new, but it is only lately that we are seeing a start (albeit still slow and not without its own share of challenges) towards the right direction. Products like Gmail, Google spreadsheets, Google Calendar and Writely are testament to this Company mission.
So now we know that Google wants to deliver a user experience in a much faster way than what the current Internet technology has to offer. Now we move on to the how question. Or, how Google intends to improve the speed at which information is retrieved and delivered to the user.
We'll start with what Google is doing now to address the problem of speed, moving on later on the company's future plans, clues of which can be found in the company's patent applications.
Web page pre-fetching is one method that is generally used in increasing the speed at which a web page is accessed and Google is using it in now in its search engine. Users using Firefox browser to search Google may have already felt the effect of pre-fetching without them knowing it. Google currently pre-fetches the top items in the list of search results especially if the algorithm has determined that it is most likely to be clicked by the user. Pre-fetching a web page means that the browser will download a web page to the user's computer even before the user has clicked on the link to it such that when the user actually clicks the link, the page is loaded quickly from user's computer memory.
The Google web accelerator is another Google product that aims to speed up the Internet experience for the users. It speeds up the speed of Internet users on broadband using a desktop component and dedicated Google servers to cache content and compress certain data before it is sent to the user GWA also uses a more aggressive pre-fetching feature that works not only on Google search result pages but also on other pages that the user is using.
The Google web accelerator and the page pre-fetching feature of the Google search engine are two methods currently being used by Google in bringing a speedier Internet experience to the user, but there are a lot more that Google is doing in its labs to make the Internet even faster, or more specifically in some cases, the speed at which information is delivered to the user. Search being the second most popular activity done by users on the Internet, speed improvements on information retrieval and delivery is an important improvement on the user experience of many Internet users.
"Predictive information retrieval" and "anticipated query generation and processing in a search engine" -two patent applications by the search company, says a lot about how Google aims to improve the search experience by hinging on one thing: anticipating and predicting what the user is looking for. The focus of the patent application mentioned is returning search results faster and more personalized for the user.
The search engine that Google wants to develop will capture the keyboard characters as they are entered by the user, then sends partial queries to the Google servers that are actually predicted by an algorithm based on what it thinks that the user is actually looking for. This prediction is based on a list of words found on one or more dictionaries which can differ from one user to user. The search engine can therefore predict what you are looking for based both on what other people are looking for and a personalized profile that Google can make out of what it knows about the user. This can include the user's search history or other factors. Google can then display the list of suggested keywords to the user and in some cases, actual search results. Predictive information retrieval when perfected will make searching experience speedier for the user, and will smartly optimized the work being done by the search engine.
Google has a lot to gain in a speedy Internet, that's why it's also investing a lot of money and engineer time towards this goal. Whatever Google delivers to the table to improve the way users use the Internet, it is a sure win for its users and customers. In the same way that we don't know how we managed to live in a world of dial up connection now that we're on broadband, we might be surprised in what the future will be offering in harnessing more the speed potential of the Internet.