Saturday, January 2, 2010 uses AJAX to update search results in place?

My Gmail account appears to be in an experiment where searches from update in place. That is, a search for bolinfest takes me to:

Rather than the classic:

Apparently this was first reported in January 2009. There was immediately an outcry because the fragment (with includes the keywords used in the Google search) was not included in the referrer, so sites who analyze their traffic using that information were at a loss.

In my version of the experiment, this is no longer an issue because the search results use a URL redirector (which I do not believe is a new practice). Although the first search result is for, and when I hover over the link in Firefox, the status bar says, the actual destination of the link is:

When I follow the link and run javascript:alert(document.referrer) in the address bar, I see the same thing:

Note that this URL contains the query in the URL parameter q=bolinfest, which should appease those who are concerned with keyword tracking.

What is interesting is that the AJAX request to load the search results appears to be an ordinary GET request to:

The content of that URL is an HTML page with 21 <script> tags in the <head> and an empty <body> tag.

Also, copying and pasting into the address bar of a new tab works as expected (though I do get a JavaScript error when I paste the URL into a new tab that I do not get when doing the initial search from

It's hard to say what this really means, if anything. Presumably, Google's objective is to make search results load faster without pissing off advertisers. As I'm not in the SEO racket, I'm not terribly interested in the latter, but I am curious whether Google is on to a new technique for loading web content faster!

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