LIVE From Google I/O, Day 2: Google Compute Engine Takes On Amazon Web Services

Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior VP of Chrome and Apps, at Google I/O June 28

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

It’s all about the Web here on Day 2 of Google’s annual I/O developer conference–Google’s Web. In contrast to yesterday’s focus on the search giant’s Android mobile operating software, today will focus on the power of the Web, in particular Google’s Chrome operating software for cloud computing.

There’s another keynote whose highlights I will liveblog below, though it’s hard to see how Google will outdo yesterday’s skydiving demo of Google Glass wearable computers. No doubt Google has reserved a surprise or two, though.

Update: The big announcement is Google Compute Engine, a rival to Amazon Web Services, which powers many websites. It’s promising it will offer 50% more compute power for the price. Also, Google Docs now will work offline when you don’t have an Internet connection, solving a big obstacle. Offline presentations and spreadsheets to follow later. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

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Why Google’s New Tablet Could Be The iPad’s First Real Competition

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Google is just a couple of days away from debuting a new tablet that could finally shake up a market utterly dominated so far by Apple’s iPad.

Reports from Gizmodo and others say Google is likely to introduce the diminutive 7-inch tablet at its Google I/O developers conference (whose Wednesday keynote I will be covering live here). The kicker, according to the reports: The tablet, built by Asus, will start at $199 for an 8 GB of memory, up to $249 for a 16 GB version.

Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire already plowed this pricing ground, of course, so such a tablet wouldn’t be entirely new. But while the Fire has been reasonably successful for Amazon, it hasn’t made much of an apparent dent in the iPad because of its limitations, including a somewhat app platform controlled by Amazon itself. And the Fire doesn’t run a standard version of Android, making it tougher yet for developers to do apps for it.

Let’s not forget Microsoft’s coming Surface tablet, either. But the reported pricing on that device, introduced last week, sounds quite close to the iPad’s. So unless it’s significantly better, which seems doubtful, it seems unlikely to mount a serious challenge.

But Google’s tablet, assuming as Chairman Eric Schmidt has promised (and this is a very big assumption) that it performs well, could for the first time challenge the iPad. And it would come at a time when tablets are the focus of everyone in tech from chipmakers and hardware manufacturers to app developers to marketers and publishers hoping to capitalize on a new mobile Internet device that could give them the creative canvas to rival (or exceed) the appeal of television and magazines. Here’s why Google might have a hit this time:

* It’s cheap. Now, merely being cheap won’t guarantee people will buy it in sufficient numbers to matter. But at $199, it doesn’t have to be every bit as good as the iPad. As Clayton Christensen has noted in cases dating all the way back to the transistor radio in the 1950s, a rival can most successfully challenge an established incumbent not by matching it feature-by-feature, but by offering something good enough for most people for a lot less money.

* The rock-bottom price will attract more app developers. If it’s decent enough to sell a lot thanks to the low price, that suddenly makes Android a more attractive platform for app developers. One of several reasons the iPad is the most popular app platform is that Apple controls the operating system version so developers don’t need to rewrite an app for each device running different versions. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Google Makes Renewed Grab for the Rest of Online Advertising

New DoubleClick ad system heats up battle to create an operating system for digital marketing

Cross-posted from my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Hundreds of well-funded online ad technology companies have sprouted up in recent years, each aiming to make it easier and more efficient for marketers to reach just the target audience they want.

Terence Kawaja, CEO of boutique investment bank Luma Partners, created this now-famous Display Lumascape to show how complex the online ad tech industry has become.

Yet the result is a crazy quilt of companies–graphically illustrated in that mess of a chart on the right–that drives marketers and agencies crazy. The very existence of so many competing products, in fact, has made placing ads online and measuring their impact more complicated and cumbersome than ever. “Venture capital has supported and financed a bunch of chaos,” advertising veteran Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the trade group Interactive Advertising Bureaugriped at a recent ad conference.

The result: Most ad dollars, nearly $200 billion a year, still get spent on television because it’s so much easier.

That’s the problem Google aims to solve with a revamped ad buying system it will announce today at a private Future of Advertising event hosted by its DoubleClick display-ad management and technology unit. (Part of the event will be livestreamed here.) The company, which already dominates 60% of the online ad business–those little text ads that appear on the right and top of the page when you do a search–now has its sights set on the remaining 40% of the industry. That would be the $25 billion worldwide market for display ads, the graphical and video banners familiar on virtually every commercial website.

Google’s goal: Provide the leading one-stop shop for advertisers and publishers to buy ads on websites, mobile phones, social networks, apps, and whatever other new media the Internet spawns. Essentially, it’s building an operating system for ads much like Microsoft did with its Windows for PCs–with much the same appeal to marketers and agencies as Windows has for PC users. “When you’re putting together a campaign, you want everything connected vs. trying to piece it all together,” says Kurt Unkel, president of the online ad buying operation at Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi digital ad agency, a Google partner.

Google’s announcement is the latest salvo in a war to control the next era of digital marketing. After a decade in which Google’s search ads overtook display ads with an unmatched ability to turn clicks directly into sales, many advertisers and publishers expect–or at least hope for–a resurgence of new kinds of display ads that could woo brand advertising dollars from TV. Neal Mohan, Google’s vice president of display advertising products, has predicted that display will be a $200 billion industry in a few years.

Read the rest of the story at The New Persuaders.

What’s Coming in Internet Advertising: 12 Predictions for 2012

I did my annual predictions first on my Forbes blog, The New Persuaders, since they’re focused largely on the Internet media and advertising I cover there. On that blog, they’re done as separate posts, but I wanted to gather them up in one place here, as I’ve done in previous years. So here’s what I think will happen (or in some cases, not happen) this year in my corner of the technology and startup world:

Facebook goes public, but won’t start an IPO landslide: Facebook will make the signature stock offering of the decade, one that reportedly will value the social network at up to $100 billion. But it won’t launch a thousand IPOs as a gazillion venture capitalists and angel investors hope.

Of course, the first part of that prediction is a gimme. But I can’t go without mentioning it because the Facebook IPO will be one of the biggest stories of 2012. Assuming Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley don’t stumble in pricing and selling the offering, Facebook’s IPO will be every bit as important as Google’s in 2004. It will be a sign that Facebook is a real, sustainable company (if there was any doubt left by now), but also a sign that social networking is getting woven into the fabric of our entire online experience.

The second part of the prediction depends less on how the Facebook IPO goes than on how (or whether) the economy recovers. If the recover remains slow to nonexistent and the stock market reflects that, IPOs will be sparse. If we get the slow but growing economic improvement we seem to be seeing now, more companies will go public but not a gusher. But the point is that Facebook is such a singular success that it’s not going to set the tone for lesser (often far lesser) Internet companies.

Facebook’s ad business booms–but not at Google’s expense: Facebook’s social advertising looks promising, but won’t come close to challenging Google’s huge success in search ads this year–maybe ever.

Obviously, Facebook is having no problem raking in the bucks from advertisers eager to reach its 800 million-plus audience–or more specifically, the millions of people in whatever target markets they choose. EMarketer reckons the company will gross nearly $6 billion in ad revenues this year, up from $4 billion in 2011. And that’s before we know anything about Facebook’s likely plans for mobile ads or an ad network a la Google’s AdSense that would spread its ads around the Web.

From reading a lot of articlesyou’d think Facebook is stealing all that money directly from Google. That’s not mainly the case, given Google’s own considerable growth in display advertising, though Facebook’s success may well blunt that growth in the future. Instead, Facebook currently is eating Yahoo’s and AOL’s lunches, and those of many ad networks that, until Facebook ramped up its ad business, were the main alternative for advertisers looking to target sizable audiences.

What would make Facebook a huge Google-scale company is the theft of an entirely different meal: television advertising. After all, Facebook shows much more promise as a brand advertising medium than a direct-marketing medium like Google. It needs only to draw a small fraction of the $60 billion or so spent on television advertising, the biggest brand medium, to be enormously successful. But even then, it’s not mainly a Facebook vs. Google contest.

Facebook still needs to answer a big question, however. That’s whether its “social ads,” which incorporate people’s friends in ads in a 21st century version of word-of-mouth marketing, will have nearly the effectiveness in driving attention and ultimately sales as search ads, which appear in direct response to related queries, often involving products people are looking to buy. The potential is intriguing, and there are some nice examples of how well social advertising can work.

But despite Facebook’s considerable work in providing new kinds of metrics on marketing and advertising impact on its users, marketers and agencies aren’t yet universally convinced they need to spend a lot of money on Facebook ads. After all, they can get a lot of mileage out of their free Facebook Pages and Like buttons around the Web. (Not to mention, it remains to be seen whether these ultra-personal ads will cross what blogger Robert Scoble calls the Facebook freaky line.)

Bottom line: If Facebook is to be the Google of the this decade, its advertising has to at least approach the engagement of search ads, especially as Google itself moves to become more of a brand advertising platform with YouTube and continues its push into display ads. While Facebook is building what seems likely to become a great business on anew vision of advertising that could change many decades of tradition,2012 won’t be the year it closes that deal.

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LIVE at Google’s Chrome OS Launch: “Nothing But the Web”

When Google announced plans for its own operating system, Chrome OS, in July 2009, many observers thought the company had gone a little Microsoft-crazy. Not so, in my opinion. But for whatever reason, the Web-based operating system–described by Google as essentially the Chrome Web browser with a bunch of software drivers needed to run many kinds of hardware–has been late in arriving. This morning in San Francisco, the search giant is expected to announce more details of the highly anticipated software–in particular, the launch of Chrome OS and the opening of a Web app store, plus perhaps the introduction of a Netbook with the OS on it. I’ll be liveblogging the highlights. There’s a bunch of videos queued up on Google’s YouTube channel that I assume will be viewable once the event begins at 10:30 a.m. Pacific. You can view the livestream of the event there too, and Google’s blog post on the event is now up.

And we’re underway, first with Sundar Pichai, Google’s vice president of product management. What’s coming: an update on Chrome (the browser), Chrome Web store, and of course Chrome OS. We’ve been working to make a lot of progress with the open source community.

Google VP Sundar Pichai at Chrome OS launch

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The Long-Awaited Boxee Box Gets a Hollywood Preview

Few consumer electronics devices have been more widely anticipated, at least by the more geeky set, than Boxee‘s settop box for bringing Internet content to the TV–since Google TV debuted three weeks ago, anyway. The uniquely shaped Boxee Box will debut on Nov. 10 in New York, adding a potent new player to the rapidly expanding market for Internet-connected TVs and add-on devices.

Today, Boxee CEO Avner Ronen offered a preview at the Streaming Media West conference in Los Angeles, where such devices are viewed with much more wariness and even fear than in Silicon Valley. First, he offered his version of the landscape (paraphrased at times):

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Bing-Yahoo May Challenge Google. Just Not Yet.

Two days ahead of reporting its third-quarter earnings, Google continues to gain on the combined search engines of Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing–at least in the amount advertisers are spending on search ads. That’s the conclusion of the latest surveys from two search marketing companies, Efficient Frontier and SearchIgnite.

According to Efficient Frontier, Google’s share of paid search spending rose to 77.9% in the third quarter, up from 75.8% in the second quarter. The reason, according to the company: Even though Bing has consistently provided a better return on spending than Google, the addition of Yahoo’s less effective search ads dragged the combined entity down.

Likewise, SearchIgnite said Google’s share of search spend rose to 80.2%, the highest since first-quarter 2009 and the highest since SearchIgnite began tracking spending in 2007. Even though Bing led the growth in spending among the major search engines, up 21% from a year ago, Yahoo fell 10%.

And things aren’t likely to change anytime soon, adds Efficient Frontier:

Google will likely see relatively significant gains in the fourth quarter as both seasonality and the Bing- Yahoo! integration skew spend in their favor.   The seasonal retail focus of Q4 typically favors Google in spend as they over-index in retail at over 80% share.  The changing efficiency of the Bing-Yahoo! integration will likely see some additional, although likely temporary, spend shift in Google’s favor.

Still, it’s hardly game over for Binghoo. SearchIgnite says click-throughs on the combined service have risen because Bing’s ad-serving formula is delivering better results, so advertisers are ready to spend relatively more–especially since they really want an alternative to challenge Google’s dominance.

What’s more, search advertising looks to be continuing its rebound (as does overall online advertising), the company says:

Paid search spend in Q3 increased 5.8% year-over-year compared with flat growth a year ago and exhibited positive momentum month-over-month, with July growing 4.9%, August 5.8% and September 6.7%. The growth throughout the quarter bodes well for a strong Q4.

Efficient Frontier saw a similar trend and also anticipates a strong fourth quarter:

In Q3 2010, the SEM sector extended its 2010 growth streak. Year on Year (YoY) spend was up 19% with a solid 6% sequential Quarter on Quarter (QoQ) growth. The important metrics of CPC, clicks, and impressions all rose indicating both strong advertiser and consumer demand. Overall return on investment (ROI) in search is up 8% YoY, a critical factor driving the rising CPCs and overall advertiser demand.

Efficient Frontier believes search will grow in the range of 15-20% in Q4. Efficient Frontier’s reason for Q4 search optimism is built on the following three reasons. First, retail has led the way for search in 2010 with consistent growth. Next, Q3’s 19% YoY growth in spend on more difficult comps and slight sequential rise is a positive signal. Finally, strengthening ROI numbers with increasing CPCs bode well for overall advertiser demand.

There’s one wild card this holiday season in online advertising: Facebook. Efficient Frontier anticipates that a lot of advertisers will up their test budgets for ads on Facebook.

Google’s Marissa Mayer Live at TechCrunch Disrupt

Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice-president of search products & user experience, is holding a fireside chat at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this afternoon. One of the best-known faces of the search giant, she often provides clues to where the look and feel of Google’s signature service is heading. She’s talking with TechCrunch editor and newly minted millionaire Mike Arrington.

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LIVE at Yahoo’s Product Runway

Yahoo’s set to announce a new product strategy shortly at what it’s calling Yahoo Product Runway. I’ll blog the highlights as they come from Blake Irving, EVP and chief products officer ad Raymie Stata, VP and chief technology officer.

And we’re underway, with some observations on Yahoo on Irving’s hundredth day here. Things are great, he says, and what else would he say? Essentially, he elaborates, Yahoo is a killer technology company. Deep connection between labs at Yahoo and the product organization. You’ll see things in the next year or three or five that look different from before–more iterative products, but more unified under Yahoo as a whole.

Yahoo will be something you take with you rather than someplace you go–content, friends, etc. We’re going to be finding a lot of harmony between advertisers and consumers (code for behavioral targeting, I think, which isn’t new, but clearly Yahoo could lead in making targeting more palatable).

Now on to Yahoo’s product vision, a graphic of which looks like part of a periodic table of elements:

* Me, for bringing personal meaning to the Web.

* Ec, for building an ecosystem.

*Si, for creating personal relevance through science and data. 300 million log into Yahoo a month, providing a wealth of data about what those people are doing. Yahoo will start honoring Facebook, Twitter and other IDs.

* Cu, for being where the customer goes. Will see a lot more mobile versions of products, sometimes before Web products. More folks will be typing on glass vs. keyboards before long.

* So, for owning real social relationships on the Web. Social networking is just starting, despite Facebook’s apparent dominance. People still want more control to socialize with lots of small groups of friends.

* En, for “engage and delight.” Best-in-classes news, sports, entertainment, mail, etc.

Now on to products that are being demonstrated here today:

* Mail: Has been re-architected from the ground up, from infrastructure to user interface.

* What’s New page: Twitter integration and other things.

* Search: More visually appealing and with more of an ability to act on the search result. People don’t want to just search, they want answers.

* Lots of Twitter integration, such as the ability to tweet from particular stories on Yahoo.

So we’re going to be moving fast, with more incremental changes to products.

So far, my socks are still on.

Now Stata comes on to tell about the technology underpinnings of all this. Lots of generalities to my ears, but some specifics:

* Relevant, personalized content for consumers. Much deeper than it has been–content optimization on every page, including those of partners such as AT&T. This will produce higher engagement, he says, which is what advertisers want as well.

Yahoo’s services are supported by a cloud infrastructure, a network of data centers of various sizes all over the world, to make the services faster for users anywhere they are.

I think of Yahoo as a big ship, need to maintain powerful engines while swapping some out. But the new engines are now in place.

Now it’s time for questions:

Q: Can you expand on the new search experience? Shashi Seth, who runs this, steps up to explain: We’re going to provide the best guess we can but provide an “accordion” to let people expand on what they really want.

We’re going to need to see the demos outside the conference room, clearly, to judge what Yahoo’s doing on all these products.

Q: On mail, what sort of innovation will we see that goes beyond regular email, which can be inefficient? Irving: Raise the things most important to you on the top (sort of like Google’s Priority Inbox? Sorry…). At its core, Yahoo’s new email service is faster, will incorporate instant messaging as needed.

Q: How are you distinguishing Yahoo search from Bing? And in three years, what will Yahoo be? Seth: On search, Yahoo no longer has to do the backend stuff like crawling and determining relevance. In three years, search won’t look or act anything like what search is today. We’re trying to take the science and tech we used to apply to backend and bring it to the forefront to reimagine what search can be. Nothing specific yet, though–that’s on the come.

Irving: In three years, Yahoo will be a global series of experiences… that are very personalized and targeted. (Uh-oh–sounds a little amorphous again, which is Yahoo’s perennial problem.) I would hope that when you look at us, you’ll say we delivered on that.

Q: Skeptical question asking for specifics, but we don’t get much.

Q: Several of these products now elevate Facebook and Twitter–are you allowing them to drive Yahoo products? Irving: It’s just providing users with what they want to do. But there are holes in what people want to do in social networking. The social networking game isn’t over because we’re doing integration with Facebook and Twitter.

Q: How are you integrating on various platforms like Android, iPhone, Windows, etc.? Irving: We’re a friendly company to do business with, helping companies provide a good Yahoo experience on all the platforms.

Q: What were your misconceptions about Yahoo before you came? Irving: One, I wasn’t sure about the technology company thing (as opposed to a media company that Yahoo kept saying it was). Found that Yahoo at its core is a tech company that finances itself through media/advertising. For another, found that there was in fact a horizontal platform that allows acquired services (such as Flickr and many others) to get off their own platform stack and use Yahoo’s underlying technical resources.

Q: Could you sum that up in a tagline? Irving: I’m in the product team, so no.

And that’s about it.

Update: I think Yahoo might have better off leading with the demos, which were pretty interesting. Yahoo Mail, in beta inside Yahoo but slated to be rolled out to all users this fall, looked fast and clean, and might keep me from my longtime threat to abandon it.

On the advertising front, Yahoo is testing out several new kinds of ads. One, called a Content Mashup, has tabs inside the ad for videos, Twitter, and other custom categories the advertiser can set up and populate with content. Another, called a Digitorial, can run games, videos, polls, and other services inside the ad, all trackable so advertisers know what’s most engaging people. And there’s also an interactive video-in-a-banner ad; when you mouse over the ad, there are links overlaid to other experiences such as games.

And there’s a new search interface coming as well, one that has vertical tabs that let you reach Yahoo content relevant to a particular search result.

LIVE at Google’s Search On Event: Google Instant Debuts

Google‘s much-anticipated event promising to chart out the future of search is about to start, and the auditorium at SF MOMA is packed with press. You can view the event on YouTube. Assuming the wireless network holds up, I’ll liveblog the highlights here. And the anticipation is indeed thick. Google Fellow and search honcho Amit Singhal, sitting in front of me, leans back to tell me, “This is a day you won’t forget.” OK!

Update: Google’s blog post on Google Instant is up now, along with lots more information. To sum up, Google has essentially slashed several seconds off the time it takes to form and type in queries. As you type, Google keeps guessing what your full query is, streaming out new search results with each new letter. And that’s huge. Maybe, as some people have speculated, the rise of Microsoft’s Bing search engine goaded Google into making more and faster improvements in search–or maybe not. But it’s clear, if it weren’t already, that Google isn’t resting on its laurels. And for now, it has set a new bar in search.

Here’s a video intro from Google:

And on to the event: PR director Gabriel Stricker comes on to explain that what Google does is one part art, one part science (well, seems like at least 5 parts science but anyway). Thus the event here at the Museum of Modern Art.

He adds that speed will be a large part of what’s being announced today. And now Marissa Mayer, VP of search products and user experience, comes on. She says Google has just passed 1 billion users a week, making Google one of the most-used services (Internet or not) in the world.

In 2009, Google rolled out more than 500 changes in search. Already this year, more than that.  A few of the improvements:

* Caffeine: 50% fresher results.

*Real-time search, including timeline views and conversation views.

* Spell corrections: They’re now part of the autocomplete function as you type in a query.

* Enhancements to questions and answers.

* Stars in search: the ability to bookmark results for users signed into Google.

* Redesign: In April, Google added a left-hand panel to refine search results.

* And of course fun: first TV commercial, during the Super Bowl.

“We want search to be fun, fast, and interactive.”

And so, today’s announcement… but first Mayer provides a little art history on a Matisse painting at MOMA. Which she points out would have taken days in a library to research in 1935. Today, the Internet provides real-time info, like whether the piece is actually on display at this time.

Mayer says people take about 9 seconds to enter a query, Google takes about 300 milliseconds to deliver it, plus 800 more milliseconds network time, and then people take 15 seconds to select a result. But at some point, we’re up against speed of typing and thinking. The past few months, Google has been attacking this problem. So: Today Google is launching Google Instant, which gives search results as you type and streams those results real-time–apparently like what I saw last night.

The home page looks the same until you start typing. So type “sfm” and you get actual results for SF MOMA. So that obviously has the potential to vastly reduce the query-typing time.

Actually, Mayer says, it’s not “search as you type,” but “search BEFORE you type,” in a sense. “There’s even a psychic element to it,” she adds, anticipating what you might mean. (Sure to freak out privacy advocates.)

Mayer: It means much faster search, much easier search, more ways to explore. Google Instant will be available later today on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE8, rolling out gradually. It will be part of the core Web search experience. Also will roll out in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Russia in the next week, if you’re signed into Google.

We think Google Instant will help users save 2 to 5 seconds per query. May not seem like much, but that’s a lot of time, over time. And of course, potentially a lot more Google ads viewed.

Now Joanna Wright, director of product management, and Othar Hansson, senior staff software engineer, come onstage to show the three main features of Google Instant. Wright says to think of the features as gears in a system.

1) Instant results: There’s no need to finish typing or type “enter.” Hansson types one letter, “w” and gets results for weather in San Francisco.

2) Set of predictions: Hansson types in “the gi” on the way to typing “the girl with the dragon tattoo,” and links for the movie and book title appear. This is an example of the idea of “search before you type.”

3) Scroll to search: Hansson starts typing “yose” and gets results for Yosemite, and can quickly scroll the suggestions in the drop-down box below the search box, and as he scrolls, those results come up instantly, so you don’t have to leave the original query and can quickly scan a lot of relevant results. For example, he starts typing in “Addams Family,” then sees that the musical is what he’s interested in, and pressing tab adds that word. Then he wants tickets, so he types “t” and then a suggested result for “Addams Family musical tickets” appears instantly.

Wright: Google works seamlessly as it always has. All it does it speed things up. So if you know how to do Google search, you know how to do Google Instant . (This is key, since too many newfangled search features require changing behavior, taking extra steps, and the vast majority of people just don’t do it. Google has been bemoaning this for years, but here it has found at least one way for people to refine results with virtually no added effort.)

And now a sneak preview of something coming out this fall: Hansson: We’re working hard to get this on mobile. Because typing on a phone is slower than on a keyboard, Google Instant should be even more useful on mobile devices. This will be available later this fall.

Ben Gomes, a Google distinguished engineer, comes on to explain the technology behind it. He says some people within Google said it would be too expensive, or too complex. But upper management said, “We have to do it.” Three challenges: user interface design, search as an application, and efficiency and scale.

On the user interface: Actually, one Google engineer demoed this years ago, calling it “incremental Google search,” but Google wasn’t fast enough to handle it. Hansson says showing early incremental results was actually distracting at first with test users, but says Google eventually got the timing right to reduce that distraction factor.

On search as an application: Had to optimize all kinds of things, most of them way over users’ heads.

On efficiency and scale: Gomes: How do we possibly do this without melting down our data centers? Several optimizations, says Hansson, in the initial prototype, in prioritizing searches, in caching (storage) of results, and many more they’re not talking about.

Gomes thanks the team that did this, showing a slide with the photos of more than 200 people.

Summing up, Gomes says Google Instant “makes search much more fun, fluid, and interactive,” as well as faster. Mayer calls it “search at the speed of thought.” Now she talks about the Google Instant team was inspired by Bob Dylan, showing a video to Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues. OK, I think it’s time for questions…. And indeed it is, with the principals joined by Google cofounder Sergey Brin and Udi Manber, the VP of engineering responsible for core search.

There are numbers counting on two screens at the sides of the auditorium, clicking upward by 11 each second–the number of hours saved per second by Instant, according to Google’s estimate.

Q: When will Instant get into the browser itself (where many people do queries)? Mayer: A few months. (Not sure why it will take that long, but it can’t come too soon. I don’t often search from Google.com itself.)

Q: What impact will Instant have on advertising? Mayer: The overall clicks to a site should remain similar.

Missing a few questions, sorry….

Q: Is there a blacklist for certain words? (This from an AdAge reporter with the last name of Slutsky.) Wright: We filter for violence, pornography. We won’t show results until you actually press enter.

Q: How much personal info is needed to do these predictive results? Mayer: For weather, for example, it’s not personal info, it’s IP address that implies location.

Q: Where does the machine-human interface go from here? Brin: Jokes that he wanted to say “We want to make Google the third half of your brain.” “It’s a little bit of a new dawn in computing. Things have been stagnant on the desktop for a decade.” That’s changing now with the Web and new platforms.

Q: What’s the impact on search engine optimization? Gomes: Basically, ranking stays the same. So in that sense there’s not that big a change in people trying to adapt to the search engine (changes).

Q: What about China, given that Google results are blocked there? Mayer: Goal is to roll out in as many platform and geographies as possible. Hope to roll out on Google.hk, the Hong Kong site.

Q: What are the benefits of this for the average user? Does the average user want faster search? Duh.

Q: How will this impact concerns about privacy? Brin: Privacy is something that we think a lot about as a company. Users place a lot of trust with us. I don’t think Google Instant is any different in that respect.

Q: How will user behavior change over time with Google Instant? Gomes: You may do more multiple queries around your result… because it’s such a fluid experience. People are going to explore their topic of interest much more than they did before.

Q: Did some test users not like this, and if so, why? Mayer: Some users did choose to turn it off, but mostly for connection speed issues, and a very small percentage.

Q: Is this separate from Caffeine? Gomes: Not directly related, but faster cache of Caffeine makes Instant more possible.

Q: How will Instant affect paid search, and will it mean the end of SEO? Wright: The ranking of our search results is the same.

Q: Did you ever think that you would reach this point? Brin: It’s kind of amazing the things we can do today, with Moore’s Law etc. We did have to spend a lot more compute power on it.

Q: Can search get even faster? Gomes: Tomorrow, I’m sure we’re going to go back tomorrow and try to make things even faster, because that’s what we do. Manber: You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Q: Won’t the fact that this reduces the need to go to Page 2 of search results affect search ads? Wright: This is a user-focused launch. And we really believe that’s going to be better for advertisers. Don’t anticipate any fewer ads to be shown. (Wright seems confused by the question, but I also wonder why there wouldn’t be some impact on the number of ads shown, or at least whether advertisers will bother trying to get ads anywhere but the top and right of the first page. Indeed, Steve Rubel thinks Instant makes SEO irrelevant. John Ebberts at Adexchanger.com also has some insider thoughts on what Instant could mean for various kinds of online advertising.)

Q: Last one, from Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan: Sometimes the top search results are not really right, so how will Instant affect that? Hansson says basically that it’s faster to get to more relevant results, even those that would have appeared on page 2 or later.

And that’s it.

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