Google moves Instant Search to the retirement home

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 27, 2017
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Google, Search

When Google launched Google Instant Search back in 2010, the company called it a fundamental shift in search that would save searchers time when running searches on Google.

Instant Search displayed search results page to the user during the process of typing the actual search phrase the user was interested in.

In best case, it would display the desired results earlier. In worst case, it would throw a number of unrelated search results page at you while you tried to focus on typing your search query.

While the feature may have helped slow typing users, it did not really help fast typing users that much.

That's one reason why I disabled Instant Search as soon as it came out. Google tried to make things more comfortable with the introduction of keyboard shortcuts, but that did not change the fact that this was terribly annoying if you typed long queries quickly.

The feature could also jack up bandwidth as more results pages may have had to be loaded during your typing of the search phrase you were interested in.

Google Instant Search retired

Starting today, Google Instant Search is no more. The company has put the feature to rest, all thanks to the rise of mobile and the fact that Instant Search does not really work that well on mobile devices for a number of reasons.

google instant search

A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land that many searches happen on mobile, and that mobile devices have "very different input and interaction and screen constraints", and that that's the reason why Google decided to retire it.

If you run a search right now on Google on the desktop you get search suggestions, but you will notice that the search results don't appear anymore as you type. This means that you will stay longer on the main Google homepage, or on a search results page that you opened previously in your browser of choice.

If you have disabled the feature, or moved on to using a different search engine -- Startpage is my search engine of choice for instance -- you may not have noticed the change at all.

Tip: check out 10 Startpage tips to make the most out of the search engine.

Closing Words

Google continues its shift towards mobile, and unifying the experience for mobile and the desktop users.

Now You: Does the removal of Instant Search affect you?

Google moves Instant Search to the retirement home
Article Name
Google moves Instant Search to the retirement home
Google has shut down Instant Search on Google Search for the desktop; a feature that displayed the results page as you typed.
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  1. kevin said on July 28, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    Glad to see this “instant search” feature gone. It was a dumb idea, anyway. Try using it with a screen reader! Pressing “h” would tack on an “h” to your search, instead of taking you to the next heading on the page (which is the natural behavior of the screen reader), probably not what you want.

    Actually, Google Instant was one of the things that drove me to competitors Duckduckgo and Startpage.

  2. TelV said on July 28, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    I use the following combination to turn off Instant. Cookies are also disabled:

    You can adapt it to your own region by changing the location in the URL. For example will take you to the German version of Google or for the Aussie version etc., etc.

    As I understand it though Startpage uses Google for searches (although anonymously), but it seems to present a different set of results than Google itself. I guess that has something to do with Google’s policy of displaying results from businesses from whom it receives commission on the first few pages and which led to the EU Commission levying a hefty €2.42 billion fine recently.

  3. Sepp said on July 28, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I really don´t understand stupid people that are happy that G retired this function. Was really so hard to disable it in the settings??? I liked this function and because it had disabling options, everybody could choose.

    1. kevin said on July 28, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      In the age of pervasive and near unstoppable tracking, many of us configure web browsers to flush all contents when closed. This makes using such settings impractical, because (as far as Google knows), we’re a different person every time we go to I mean, we could sign in every time we go to Google, but that would allow them to track our searches and construct a profile about us.

  4. Stefan said on July 28, 2017 at 2:50 am

    Why use Google that censorship the truth ?

  5. ams said on July 27, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    I didn’t “use” the instant search — I never pressed down arrow (or click a “row”?) to select from among the choices. FWIW, I also choose to disable search autocompletion in urlbar.

    1) I’m reporting that, as of 9:05EST 27July, autocompletion is still present for me (desktop firefox) on google search page. Different from the screencap in this article… upon typing a single character the mid-page text box disappears, a search box appears at top of page along with rows(?) of suggestions which instantly change with each additional keystroke.

    2) I wonder whether this change will also affect “search autocompletion” when typing into urlbar

    3) I find it shocking that google would implement a change like this “effective immediately” instead of providing advance notice.

    Belief in the adage “Usually, if a product is free, then YOU are the product” jaded my opinion regarding the instant search feature. When it was introduced, I immediately suspected that it was intended to provide an additional “signal” vector for fingerprinting users, based on keystroke speed/patterns. Going forward, perhaps google will still capture real-time keystroke velocity data ~~ just won’t provide users a visual treat/benefit in exchange?

    Repeatedly, especially during the recent US elections, I’ve wondered whether the autocompletion feature (the phrases it presented) was being used to manipulate users. Wondering the age of the female candidate, I was shocked / amazed / appalled when “Hillary Clinton breast size” showed up as one of the autopopulated suggestions. C’mon, really? Sorry, I can’t believe that many among the herd are interested in, have previously searched for, that information. For me, that was a memorable example (was tempted to take a screenshot) but I can recall plenty of other bizarre, WTF-ish suggestions which have been presented in my instant search results.

    I’ve forgotten: Is a web browser’s spellchecker only available for textarea form elements? If not, and google has chosen to craft the search page to forgo/override activation of browser’s native spellchecker… how might we interpret that choice? Was it intended to instill (and continually reinforce, real-time) user belief in “google knows, google is wise”?

    As for the as-you-type bandwidth consideration, it’s minimal. It’s MUCH less than the bandwidth (and overhead of building) multiple full pages. Hmm, the instant search robbed google of the opportunity to serve fresh ad impressions across multiple pages. Maybe that consideration has (finally) motivated the change?

    1. AnorKnee Merce said on July 27, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      @ ams

      Auto-completion or auto-suggestion is different from Google Instant Search. The latter displays Search results the moment you type a completed word, even though you have not yet finished typing the whole sentence or whole word for what you want to search, ie results are displayed before you click the ‘Search’ icon or press ‘Enter’.

  6. justakiwi said on July 27, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Re:retirement home.
    i saw this and went to the retirement home, that ole frenchman Tom answered the door and said ‘we closed, shut in down at last’, never really found much of a use for this feature in giggle, just as well as i use as my default search engine.

  7. ekim said on July 27, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Thank you for removing this ridiculously thing…my god just accidentally pressing a key on the keyboard would redirect me from my search to someting else!

    1. Dojo said on July 27, 2017 at 6:22 pm

      Worst case, you could always try another search engine like Startpage, DuckDuckGo, Qwant or whatever else.

      1. ekim said on July 28, 2017 at 12:43 pm

        I use bing for alternative search queries. And Qwant for other results that often is censored both by bing and other search engines.

  8. Nebulus said on July 27, 2017 at 9:32 am

    I always disliked this feature, so I can say that I’m happy that it is gone!

  9. Richard Allen said on July 27, 2017 at 7:41 am

    I never cared for Instant Search and I rarely ever use google search anyway. Pretty much I only use it to do an image search and to search for other trackers using a torrent hash like 9F250C0C5D0E9F7A76E46C3A26BD37F6B2D4A249. For those two things Google does the best job as far as the search engines I use.

    I saw an article earlier about Instant Search by Chris Chavez over at that I thought was funny.
    “Google is officially killing off their Instant Search feature today on the web, forcing you to press enter or tap on search suggestions like an Animal.” LOL

    1. Steve said on July 28, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Mint? Seriously Richard?

      Why not Deb?

  10. lol said on July 27, 2017 at 7:18 am

    lol maybe at last Google realized that only 1% of users use that feature. Google keeps turning the feature on even though I’ve turned it off. I’m glad at last it’s dead.

  11. Nik said on July 27, 2017 at 7:15 am

    I liked this feature.

    1. AnorKnee Merce said on July 27, 2017 at 8:07 am

      Yes, agree. Google should only retire Instant Search for Mobile users.

  12. SuilAmhain said on May 4, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Hi Bobby, neither was for instant preview. Martin has a post today how to get instant preview back.

  13. BobbyPhoenix said on May 3, 2013 at 10:55 am

    @SuilAmhain I tried both scripts you gave, but I still don’t have the Instant Preview back. Are there any options I need to change?

    1. CaptainTech / theTechLord777 said on March 29, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      But this will make your computer to load the page directly.
      If you instant-preview a malware website, your comptuer is in danger.

      But Google’s native instant preview does protect you infront of virusses.

  14. SuilAmhain said on May 3, 2013 at 7:58 am


    FYI, I got both pieces of functionality back with and grease monkey.

    Google site: Tool –
    Googlifix –

    I made a slight change to googlifix to narrow the left column but both scripts work really well for me.

  15. SuilAmhain said on April 26, 2013 at 9:40 am

    They also got rid of “see more results from this site”. Very infuriating.

    The two extra clicks added after the last refresh to use each of the “Search Tools” was and continues to be annoying but this refresh removes a key/critical feature for google useablility.

    1. Charley said on April 27, 2013 at 2:03 am

      Thanks for this article.
      Chrome is getting more functional, so I’ll be looking into any new extensions that will perform this preview function. I have one older Motorola-based Power PC, however, and it can’t run Chrome. There I use Safari. It was a real time saver for me, and I will miss it. Guess it may be time to put the old Apple to rest.

  16. SCrawford said on April 26, 2013 at 1:32 am

    I do a lot of research on a daily basis and I loved this preview feature…. I have been so frustrated without it these past two days. I have been searching for the option and finally did a google search to see what was going on with the missing preview windows. Now I’m even more discontented! It was a big time saver and it was the only reason I preferred Google to Bing…. Now I’m not so sure.

  17. zachary said on April 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    :( its been 1 day and I already miss it :( please bring it back Google. Add it as a option under search setting.

  18. Diana said on April 25, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I really love this feature. It saves me a lot of time because i do not have to open every single URL.

  19. Olyawe4ka said on April 25, 2013 at 9:42 am

    It is a pity. I always use this option!

    1. CaptainTech / TechLord.777 said on March 28, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      I also loved it to hell!

      I used it very frequently!
      I was disappointed, that they had to remove it! I liked this feature! This tiný and little green arrow is no replacement for this beautiful feature‼

      @Diana: I’m with you bro!

  20. Transcontinental said on April 25, 2013 at 2:38 am

    For once good news from Google Search engine should be encouraged !
    I as many users already had a script for getting rid of that nasty instant preview non-utility. Anyway, I barely call Google’s search.

  21. CGA said on April 25, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Good riddance, never used it anyway.

  22. Boris said on April 24, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Some Greasemonkey Google scripts do not work anymore.

  23. BobbyPhoenix said on April 24, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I actually didn’t even notice it was gone. I like it, but I use two extension to better it. CoolPreviews and SearchPreview. While CoolPreviews replaces the Instant Preview function, it’s SearchPreview that is the icing on the cake. SearchPreview shows a picture of the website within the search results. I use both to help me search. Here are the links for Firefox. They are also available for Chrome.

  24. naveed said on April 24, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    It defeated the back button functionality when you want to try multiple searches

  25. naveed said on April 24, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    I personally hated the instant preview and always turned it off.

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