In August 2011, Google made the following change to the search results (this is no longer default behaviour, though can still be accessed by hitting the Tab button):

I use my cursor keys to move down the page but now the keys rather irritatingly scroll through each result individually, this causes a complete loss of state when the page transitions between top and bottom of the screen.


mouse cursor

The question is: why might Google done this? Is there any evidence to suggest this behaviour is desired by or useful for users?

  • 1
    "Is there any evidence to suggest it is desired" - given that Google A/B test everything they do, I think the presence of the feature suggests it's something they've seen positive responses to.
    – Rahul
    Aug 30, 2011 at 14:56
  • 1
    I can't find any Google research to explain the change and I am genuinely interested. All I'm seeing is tons of irate users: google.com/support/forum/p/Web%20Search/…
    – colmcq
    Aug 30, 2011 at 16:02
  • I can't replicate this behaviour. Maybe Google are only running this as part of multivariate tests at the moment? May 23, 2012 at 14:04
  • 1
    @JimmyBreck-McKye Look at this question's date. August 2011 was a long time ago, in web terms.
    – kastark
    May 23, 2012 at 16:06
  • It appears google now only shows the cursor if you hit Tab on the search page
    – Ben Brocka
    May 23, 2012 at 16:17

2 Answers 2


As mentioned on the official Google blogspot - the reason is to allow users to browse search results via keyboard alone:

...we’ve introduced keyboard navigation to help you explore your Instant search results using just your keyboard, with no need for a mouse or touchpad.

And that basically means TV based users and the like. Oh and guess what - Google TV might just be relevant here!

You can stop it by turning off Google Instant. (Yup - the whole thing.)

One problem is that it has pay-per-click implications, because it looks like Google is endorsing the first link - which may be a paid ad.

For me personally - I don't have a problem with it. Kinda quite like it actually. There are lots of vocal people who do not like it, but many many more less vocal people who I can't speak for!

  • I don't see how it could be seen as an endorsement; the arrow could mean "important" but you'll learn differently once it moves, plus it's certainly not as impactful as the order of the items.
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 30, 2011 at 20:27
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    @SirTapTap Trust me - the uninitiated will never even discover that the arrow can move or what it's really for. See the last two paragraphs on this article at The Register which quotes concerns from a Pay-per-click analyst regarding the use of the arrow next to an item in the results (either paid or organic section). Aug 30, 2011 at 22:21
  • 1
    "search results using just your keyboard" yes, that's the whole point of using the cursor keys!
    – colmcq
    Aug 31, 2011 at 8:57

You'll note they've changed this behavior now. Now if you go to Google and hit tab you'll get this cursor. This prevents "breaking" the arrow keys for scrolling. This behavior makes a bit more sense for the keyboard alone paradigm mentioned in Roger's answer; keyboard-only users tend to tab around the page.

It seems fairly obvious (though not clearly stated to my knowledge) that users found the behavior unexpected (when not using tab) so it was changed. The current use is more of a balance between keyboard navigation while not breaking traditional controls.

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