A month ago, when Google unveiled Instant, their new search-as-you-type feature, I thought it sounded great except for one little thing: I don’t use google.com that often to search anymore. That doesn’t mean I don’t use Google — I do — I just use it in Chrome’s Omnibox (the URL/Search box that’s baked into the browser). And I’m hardly alone there. When asked when Instant would be making it to browsers search boxes, Google stated that it would come “in the next few months“. Luckily for Chrome, that’s happening much quicker.
That really shouldn’t be a surprise considering that Google also makes Chrome. But it was still impressive that just 9 days later, an Instant test started showing up in the Labs area of Chromium (the open source browser behind Chrome). Sadly, it was a Windows-only test for the past several weeks. But as of the most recent nightly builds of Chromium (which is already on version 8), it’s now working on Macs too. And based on the progress on the Windows side of things, it looks as if it’s getting ready to roll into Chrome itself shortly.
To enable Instant in Chromium for Mac, you have to type “about:labs” into the Omnibox, and you’ll be taken to a page with the various Chrome Lab options. Once you enable Instant here and restart your browser, it will be ready to roll. It works just as Instant does on google.com — you start typing and Google search results start to appear in your browser window. One thing I didn’t realize though is that if you type a URL such as: beta.techcrunch.com, it will immediately take you there without you having to hit enter as well. Nifty.
Meanwhile, over on the Windows side of things, Instant has already graduated out of Chrome Labs as of today. It now exists as an entry in the preferences section of Chromium and when the box is checked to use it, an info box pops up to let you know more about the feature, as Google Operating System points out.
Both of these updates likely mean that Instant will soon be making its way as a standard (optional) feature in Chrome itself. As for other browsers, they’ll undoubtedly need plug-ins to make Instant work, and you can bet Google is working on them as we speak.
Update: It looks like the dev channel of Chrome was just updated to version 8 today as well. The Mac version doesn’t yet include Instant, but it’s only slightly behind the latest Chromium build, so I suspect it will in a few days.