The change, called "Google Instant," is the closest the 12-year-old company has come yet to realizing its founders' ambitions to build a search engine that reads its users' minds.
"I think it's a little bit of a new dawn in computing," Google co-founder Sergey Brin said during a Wednesday press conference.
The shift means Google users will begin to see an ever-evolving set of search results popping up on their computer screens and potentially changing with each additional character typed. Google will also try to predict what a person really wants by filling out the anticipated search terms in gray letters. Below that, in a drop-down box, Google will still offer other suggested search terms, as the site has been offering for a few years.
The feature will be gradually rolled out throughout the U.S. this week and will be offered in other parts of the world later this year. It's designed to work on most of the latest versions of the major Web browsers.
Google search executive Marissa Mayer hailed the breakthrough as a quantum leap akin to Bob Dylan's switch from an acoustic to electric guitar in 1965.
If nothing else, Google is hoping that the instant innovation will enable it to maintain its dominance of the lucrative search market as rivals Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. team up to mount a more formidable challenge. Currently, Google processes about two-thirds of Internet search requests while Microsoft and Yahoo handle most of the rest.
Google rose to popularity mainly because it focused on delivering search results within a few seconds. But Brin and the company's other founder, Larry Page, have pushed Google's engineers to make the search engine even faster.
By accelerating search results, Google believes it will keep its users happier and possibly encourage people to make even more requests. That's important to Google because each query presents another opportunity to present another one of the ads that generate most of the company's nearly $30 billion in annual revenue.
As part of its quest to speed things up, Google figured out that the average search request takes nine seconds to type and then users spend an average of 15 seconds to decide which result to pick.
With the new instant feature, Google expects to reduce the time that people collectively spend on its search engine by about 350 million hours annually.