Autocomplete was created ... in 2004.
Autocomplete was created ... by Google.
Autocomplete was created ... by a guy named Kevin Gibbs.
Autocomplete was created ... on a bus.
Few things merge technology and philosophy as elegantly as autocomplete. The feature is not merely one of the microinteractions that subtly standardize our experience of the Internet; it's also a kind of meta-interaction -- one that puts the "world" in "World Wide Web." Type in a search query -- or type in, rather, part of a search query -- and you get a textual snapshot of humanity's collective psyche. You see your desires and wonderings and wanderings, measured against the desires and wonderings and wanderings of everyone else who has ever used Google. Sometimes, as a result of all this, you get sadness. Sometimes you get silliness. Sometimes you get poetry. But you always get insight.
The autocomplete function as we know it today, All Things D's Liz Gannes reports, had humble origins. The thing really was born on a bus -- a Google shuttle bus, to be precise, the kind that ferries Googlers between San Francisco and Mountain View. The kind that comes with built-in wifi. Kevin Gibbs, a Stanford grad and a former IBM engineer, had joined Google in part because he liked the shuttle service that the young company provided its employees. And he liked the 20 percent time, too: the flexibility Google used to offer its engineers to spend a fifth of their time working on projects of special interest to them.