Not always listening: Google removes Chrome's instant voice search

One of the most useful hands free features in Google's Chrome browser is gone: You'll have to hit a button to do an "OK Google" voice search.

If you got used to saying "OK Google" on a computer without tapping a button, you'd better build up your finger strength: Google has removed the always-listening optional feature from its Chrome browser.

Google isn't advertising the dropped function in the release notes for Chrome version 46, but VentureBeat noticed it was gone and asked Google as to why. Not many people were using it, according to Google, "on these platforms." And by these platforms, Google means Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Note that ChromeOS devices such as Chromebooks and Chromeboxes still work with an "OK Google" command without tapping a button, if configured to do so.

As someone who works all day in a Google Chrome browser, I'm disappointed. Sure, I can still search Google by voice if I click the microphone option, or I could simply type out a search query. But the hands-free approach was super convenient, quick and accurate.

It's interesting to note that a core feature of Windows 10 is the option to ask Cortana questions simply by speaking them aloud, all without the press of a button. Again, this only works if you configure Cortana to be always listening.

If people aren't using the hands free "OK Google" function on PCs, will they do at the operating system level with Cortana? My hope is that as the Windows 10 user-base continues to expand, Microsoft sheds some light on how many Windoes users do take advantage of the audio function.