Google on Wednesday announced a small but important improvement to search in Gmail: the function will now surface better predictions as to who you email and what you search for. The update is rolling out to all Gmail users globally “over the next few days.”

So, what exactly has been improved? Google reveals that search autocomplete predictions will now include your past searches and new contact thumbnails.

Here’s how it looks:

searchimprovements Gmail autocomplete gets search history and contact thumbnails

It’s a small but important addition: Google has been pushing search improvements for a while now, and this shows it is far from done. In late February, for example, Google added Calendar results to Gmail and Web search, although this was part of an expanded field trial program for US users.

The field trial for an enhanced version of Google’s search began late last year, but Google has been iterating on it ever since (the company has added more info in Gmail search as well as searches performed on Google.com). What’s interesting about today’s update is that it is a global one and that it’s somersaulted the field search test completely.

At the same time, users are getting a reminder that Google tracks everything you search for, including in Gmail. Some would argue that there’s nothing wrong with this as long as the data is protected and used to improve the user experience, while others will naturally want to know how long it’s kept for and whether it’s used for other purposes (such as ad targeting). Remember: Google makes most of its revenue from ads, and you have to be okay with that if you use its services.

See also – Google makes Gmail’s new compose window default for everyone, soon won’t let you opt out of it and Gmail for Android gets direct notification replies, archives in Jelly Bean, faster searching in ICS and up

Top image credit: ilco