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Mobile search has become increasingly important to both users and Google (NSDQ: GOOG), the search giant claimed at its Inside Search event in downtown San Francisco. But it also rolled out a series of updates to its image search for desktops and introduced voice recognition into its main search page while revealing a method it thinks can improve page load speeds by several seconds.
Google fellow Amit Singhal took attendees at the event through the state of search today: desktop search is of course a well understood phenomenon at this point, but mobile search is still evolving. One interesting thing Google noticed when parsing its legendary horde of data was that while desktop search traffic fell on weekends, mobile search traffic accelerated. The same pattern also occurs within a day: desktop searches peak during the work hours, while mobile search peaks at lunchtime and during happy hour.
But just before Singhal took the stage, Google prematurely leaked the mobile news on its Google Mobile blog. “To make it easier for people to search for what’s around them, we’ve introduced new shortcuts to commonly searched local categories, like restaurants, coffee shops and bars, in the form of icons on the mobile Google homepage,” Google wrote in a what appeared to be a blog post that has since vanished. Also, “another mobile improvement we’ve introduced today is an easier way to build longer, more complicated searches. You can now add suggested phrases to the search box and “build” your search piece by piece.”
Several new features emerged for regular Google search as well. Voice recognition technology has been a big part of Google’s mobile search efforts to date, and it announced plans to bring voice search to the regular Google desktop Web site. A little microphone icon will appear at the far right of the search bar that allows you to use the microphone on your laptop to vocalize your query, and believe it or not, it worked every time in the demonstrations.
Another interesting feature that emerged Tuesday was search by image: Google searchers will be able to take images that haven’t necessarily been indexed already by Google and drag them into the search bar, which will produce images similar to the original one, which could help the searcher understand more about their picture.
And in line with Google’s obsession with speed, it introduced a new feature called Instant Pages. Google has apparently figured out a way to “preload” Web pages so that they will load faster from Google search results pages than they would otherwise. When Google is pretty sure that you will click on the first result for your query, it spends the few seconds that you’d normally take to scan the search results page to load that first result in the background, so that when you do click on it, the page appears a few seconds faster than it would otherwise. Instant Pages is only rolling out through the beta version of Chrome, and won’t be available as part of the stable release for a while.
However, all of those new desktop-based technologies require Google’s Chrome browser to work. The code for Instant Pages is part of Google’s Chromium open-source project and will therefore be released so that anyone could use it, Singhal confirmed, but it’s not clear if the same is true for voice search and image search.
Google released demonstration videos of some of the new features, which is the best way to understand features like search by image and Instant Pages.
Search by image: