Google put out its big list of algorithm changes for May, and 5 out of 39 of them are related to autocomplete predictions. From the sound of it, they’re the predictions are getting more useful, and there’s a lesser chance that you’ll see low-quality predictions. We’ll see.
Here are the relevant changes:
- Autocomplete predictions used as refinements. [launch codename “Alaska”, project codename “Refinements”] When a user types a search she’ll see a number of predictions beneath the search box. After she hits “Enter”, the results page may also include related searches or “refinements”. With this change, we’re beginning to include some especially useful predictions as “Related searches” on the results page.
- More predictions for Japanese users. [project codename “Autocomplete”] Our usability testing suggests that Japanese users prefer more autocomplete predictions than users in other locales. Because of this, we’ve expanded the number or predictions shown in Japan to as many as eight (when Instant is on).
- Improvements to autocomplete on Mobile. [launch codename “Lookahead”, project codename “Mobile”] We made an improvement to make predictions work faster on mobile networks through more aggressive caching.
- Fewer arbitrary predictions. [launch codename “Axis5”, project codename “Autocomplete”] This launch makes it less likely you’ll see low-quality predictions in autocomplete.
- Improved IME in autocomplete. [launch codename “ime9”, project codename “Translation and Internationalization”] This change improves handling of input method editors (IMEs) in autocomplete, including support for caps lock and better handling of inputs based on user language.
At times, Google’s autocomplete feature has gotten the company some unwanted attention. A few months back, for example, a Japanese court ordered Google to delete specific terms from Autocomplete. It’s interesting that they’re now offering more predictions for Japanese users.
At the time, a Google spokesperson told us, “Autocomplete is a feature of Google search that offers predicted searches to help you more quickly find what you’re looking for. These searches are produced by a number of factors including the popularity of search terms. Google does not determine these terms manually–all of the queries shown in Autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users.”
Since then, we’ve seen the company sued over “Jewish” autocomplete suggestions.
According to Google’s new and improved Autocomplete, Google Autocomplete is funny (as you can see from the image above).
For some fun with the feature, check out: The 2012 Presidential Election, As Told By Google Autocomplete.