There has been a lot of buzz since the launch of Google Instant and around Yahoo’s original version (more info here). Also just found a Bing version which streams images and video results too. The ultimate fact is that Google rolled it out on Google.com, whereas neither Bing nor Yahoo wanted to nor put support behind their versions. Ultimately, as the Bing response has stated, it is important for the search engines to be innovative in what has been a very static and stagnant environment.
Another Bing response has stated that they see their engine going in another direct anyway, as the ‘decision engine’ – “We’re driven by the belief that in today’s complex world, no matter how fast results are displayed, the experience is not always enough to help you complete your task and make an informed decision” (from Bing Blog). I can see where Bing is coming from in making this point – if you are searching for ‘flights’ on GI, typing ‘fl’, Google presupposes you are looking for ‘flybe’ so you do get flight results, then as you type the ‘i’, Google intuitively goes for Flickr, so then it takes the ‘g’ (i.e. 4 letters) before Google gets the hang of what you are searching for – which may well be annoying for the user. Meanwhile, type ‘flights’ into Bing and hit search and you immediately get what you want. The problem is the Google streamed results are distracting and as users look at them, ultimately 3 seconds will pass, and advertisers will incur unnecessary impressions.
It’s the same with ‘hotels’ – Google thinks you are looking for hotmail until you get to the ‘e’, again the 4th letter. Of course, this is based on hotmail seeing more search interest than hotels of course:
But this may put users off and we may see Google Instant being switched off by users.
UPDATE: Yahoo response:
For Yahoo!’s Seth, the version of the service Google ultimately rolled out is far too busy and distracting. “Do I really need new search results for each character I key in?” he asked.
He said that Yahoo! is working on a system that will better predict what netizens are searching for — without continuously updating search results the way Google does. “We will find a happy middle-ground,” he said.
If you’re striving to determine what the user is looking for, Seth said, this shouldn’t involve showing a new page of search results every time you type. If Yahoo! determines that you’re looking for Martin Luther King’s birthday, he said, it should simply show you his birthday — not an entire search result page filled mostly with information you’re not interested in.