Google to speed up searches with visual Web site ‘previews’

November 9, 2010

Google’s search engine has a new feature that may cause Web surfers to do less…Web surfing.

The company’s new Instant Previews announced on Tuesday provides visual snapshots of Web pages directly within the list of search results, making it easier and quicker to home in on the Web page you’re looking for.

Instant Previews, which will be rolled out during the next few days, puts a small icon of a magnifying glass next to most of Google’s search results. Click on the magnifying glass and Google serves up a screenshot of the Web page, highlighting the section of the page that’s relevant to your search query.GOOGInstantPreview

That eliminates the time-consuming back-and-forth excursions from Google’s list of search results to various Web sites.

Google says the majority of the preview snapshots are already stored in its index of the Web, and Google will pre-load the preview images for search results in your browser in the background. Result: preview images typically load in less than one-tenth of a second, says Google.

The previews represent the latest step in Google’s efforts to find new ways to accelerate Web searches, following September’s introduction of Google Instant, which predicts a search query and fetches the relevant list of results before you finish typing.

It will be interesting to see to what extent data-heavy new features like Instant Previews add to Google’s infrastructure spending – Google’s capital expenditures in the third quarter jumped to $757 million compared to $476 million in the second quarter and $239 million in the first quarter.

The new features comes as competition in the search market continues to heat up, with Microsoft offering new features in its Bing search engine, such as Facebook content.

Last week, a company called Blekko unveiled a new search engine that filters out the morass of spam-like sites designed to appear at the top of Google search results, delivering a more limited, but the company claims more relevant, set of results.

That kind of exclusionary approach to search probably couldn’t fly at Google, which has faced regulatory scrutiny over its power to control which Web sites get top billing in search results. But by letting users quickly flip through screenshots of websites, without wasting time loading each page in a browser, Google may be offering its own way for users to circumvent the clutter of unwanted Web sites.

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