Google’s AI-powered search experience is way too slow

The worst thing about Google’s new AI-powered search experience is how long you have to wait.

Can you remember the last time you waited for a Google search result? For me, searches are generally instant. You type something into the search box, Google almost instantly spits out an answer to that thing, and then you can click on some links to learn more about what you searched for or type something else into the box. It’s a virtuous, useful cycle that has made Google Search the most visited website in the world.

Google’s Search Generative Experience, on the other hand, does loading animations.

Let me back up a little bit. In May, Google introduced an experimental feature called Search Generative Experience (SGE) that uses Google’s AI systems to summarize search results for you. The idea is that you don’t have to click through a list of links or type anything else into the search box; instead, Google will just tell you what you’re looking for. In theory, this means your searches can be more complex and talkative – a pitch we’ve heard before! – but Google can still answer your questions.

If you’ve signed up for SGE, which is only available to people who sign up for Google’s waitlist in the search labs, AI summaries appear right below the search box. I’ve been using SGE for a few days now and I’ve found that the responses themselves are generally good, albeit messy. For example, when I searched “where can I watch Ted Lassothe AI-generated response that appeared was a few sentences long and factually accurate. It’s on Apple TV Plus. Apple TV Plus costs $6.99 a month. Great.

Screenshot of Jay Peters / The Verge

But the answers are often supplemented with a lot of extras stuff. On desktop, Google displays source information as cards on the right side, although you can’t easily see which bits of information come from which sources (another button can help you with that). On mobile (well, just the Google app for now), the cards appear below the summary text. Below the answer to the question, you can click on a series of possible follow-up prompts and below everything That is a standard Google search result, which can be littered with additional info boxes.

That extra stuff in an SGE result isn’t as helpful as it should be either. When it showed SGE at I/O, Google also showed how the tool could automatically generate a buying guide, so I thought “where can I buy Tears of the Kingdomwould be a softball question. But the result was a mess, littered with giant sponsored cards above the result, a confusing list of suggested stores that didn’t really take me to listings for the game, a Google map pointing those stores, and on the right, three link cards where I could find my way to purchase the game A search for a used iPhone 13 Mini in red didn’t fare much better I should have just scrolled down.

An increasingly cluttered search screen isn’t exactly new territory for Google. What bothers me most about SGE is that it takes a few seconds for the summaries to appear. As Google generates an answer to your question, a blank colored box appears with loading bars fading in and out. When the search result finally loads, the colored box enlarges and Google’s summary appears, pushing the list of links onto the page. I really don’t like waiting for this; if I wasn’t testing specifically for this article, for many of my searches I’d immediately scroll away from most generative AI responses so I could click a link.

Get used to seeing these bars.
GIF by Jay Peters / The Verge

Confusingly, SGE broke down for me at odd times, even with some of the most searched terms. For example, the words “YouTube,” “Amazon,” “Wordle,” “Twitter,” and “Roblox” all returned an error: “There is no AI-powered feed available for this search.” ‘Facebook’, ‘Gmail’, ‘Apple’ and ‘Netflix’, on the other hand, all returned with perfectly fine SGE-formatted responses. But for the questions that were valid, it took what seemed like an eternity for the results to show up.

When I was testing, the Gmail result showed up fastest, in about two seconds. Netflix’s and Facebook’s lasted about three and a half seconds, while Apple’s lasted about five seconds. But for these one-word searches that failed, it all took more than five seconds to try and load before showing the error message, which was incredibly frustrating when I could have just scrolled down to click a link. The Tears of the Kingdom and iPhone 13 Mini queries both took over six seconds to load – an internet eternity!

If I have to wait that long when I’m not specifically doing test queries, I’ll just scroll down the SGE results to read or click something. And having to tap my foot to wait for SGE replies that are often filled with junk I don’t want to sift through only makes the search experience worse for me.

Maybe I’m just stuck in my ways. I like to research sources for myself, and I’m generally suspicious of the things AI tools say. But as someone who has wasted ages of their life watching loading screens in streaming videos and video games, having to do this on Google Search is a deal-breaker for me. And if the results don’t feel noticeably better than what I was able to get just by looking at what Google previously offered, I don’t think SGE is worth the wait.