The idea seems so obvious when you think about it: Instead of showing only text in search results, Google Instant Preview will soon display an image of every website.
After Google rolls out Instant Preview over the next few days, search results will have a small magnifying glass icon next to them. Clicking on it will bring up a snapshot of the website in question, often with text from your search highlighted on the page.
Obviously, Instant Preview won't be worthwhile if it's too slow. Google claims that preview results are usually delivered in under one-tenth of a second, and once you click the magnifying glass, Google begins loading other page previews in the background.
The company claims that users are five per cent more likely to be satisfied with the search results they click on when using Instant Preview.
Microsoft's Bing has offered page previews since its inception, but without actual snapshots of the page. Instead, Bing clips what it thinks are the most relevant parts of a page, such as contact information and store hours for businesses, and displays it in a small box.
I don't think Bing's approach is necessarily inferior to Google Instant Preview. In fact, both search engines are playing to their strengths. Bing is best at delivering answers to your queries directly on its own search results pages, and sometimes its page previews can be more valuable than visiting the actual website. Google does a better job of sending you to useful websites, and Instant Preview provides a better idea of which sites have the information you need. As the company explains, Instant Preview can be useful for determining if a how-to page has images, or whether you've visited the website before.
Nonetheless, one analyst told Computerworld that Microsoft should respond to Google Instant Preview with a similar feature for Bing. I, for one, hope the companies' approaches remain distinct.