Posted by Neil Crosby on May 9, 2005 01:24 PM
Basically, on some searches, google instructs your web browser to start downloading the top-most search result before you actually click on the link to that page, meaning that when you do click on the link that page will load that much faster. While this facility is only available for users of the Mozilla based browsers, for those users it results in a an improved user experience. However, as with all good things, there’s also a possible downside - pages being prefetched that the user never actually decides to visit.
Thankfully this has been thought about by google, and the prefetch instruction is only ever applied to the top result for any search, and only then if it has been determined that the greatest majority of users who make that search will click on the top result. This means that only the very best top placed results will get this treatment, meaning less wasted bandwidth for both user and host. Clearly a good thing.
The added advantage of google using the prefetch instruction is that it gives another metric for determining how relevant google thinks that your pages are. In my mind it’s quite an honour for the search engine to determine that you’re not only worth of the top spot, but that you’re also where most people go once they get their results. If you look at a lot of searches you won’t be able to find the
<link rel='prefetch'> used to prefetch pages - it’s only on those searches that google is certain you’ll visit that get the treatment. Which is why I’m very happy to announce that for the search “mod_rewrite example” this site has not only got the top spot but is also being prefetched (YMMV, it’s what I’m seeing here)! Now, if only I could get a few of my other search terms up there…
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