As rumored about a month ago, Google has now officially unveiled Instant Previews, a feature that grabs full page snapshots of the web sites returned in your search results. You can try it out now by going to Google.com/InstantPreviews or wait until it’s automatically rolled out.
Each search result will have a little magnifying glass next to it. Click on the magnifying glass, and you’ll see an image preview of the page. Some of the previews will highlight where your search term can be found within the site itself with a little call-out box, which is pretty helpful. (More on Time.com: Photos: The Story of Google Doodles)
You can also use your keyboard to navigate through your searches. Arrow up and down through the results and hit the right arrow key to bring up the image previews in the right-hand sidebar.
Curiously, Google unabashedly covers up its popular text ads from the right-hand sidebar when the Instant Previews feature is enabled. It’ll be interesting to see the backlash that’ll undoubtedly result as advertisers complain about their ads being hidden. Search results advertising is really Google’s bread and butter, too, so you’d have to think the company at least considered the ramifications of full page image previews covering up the sidebar.
Ads aside, I actually enjoy this feature more than Google’s Instant Search feature. It makes for easy keyboard-only navigation and gives a good bird’s-eye view of what to expect when clicking through to a particular site. (More on Time.com: Best Shots from Google’s Candid Camera)
It’s fast, too. Google says the following:
“We realized early on that this kind of experience would only make sense if it was lightning fast. Not long ago simply downloading an image could take 20 or 30 seconds, and even today many websites take four or five seconds to load. With Instant Previews, we match your query with an index of the entire web, identify the relevant parts of each webpage, stitch them together and serve the resulting preview completely customized to your search—usually in under one-tenth of a second. Once you click the magnifying glass, we load previews for the other results in the background so you can flip through them without waiting.”
The Instant Previews feature “is rolling out now and should be available in more than 40 languages in the next few days.”
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