Hummingbird: Google overhauls search engine

Hummingbird: Google overhauls search engine

Summary: 15 years after Google was founded, the search giant is announcing a major update of its search engine: Hummingbird.


Google does lots of things today—Chromebooks, Android, and they're the 800-pound gorilla of Internet advertising—but when all is said and done, search is still at its heart. So it comes as no surprise that for its 15th anniversary, Google is introducing a major change to its core search engine: Hummingbird.


According to Google, this change to the core algorithm is its biggest since the launch of Caffeine in 2010.

Amit Singhal, Google senior vice president and one of its earliest staffers,  said, "When I joined Google, people would be amazed when a simple query for a Web site would work. As they became more comfortable, they began to ask more complex questions. Hummingbird is the result of that foundational rethink."

Singhai added that while page ranking and indexing must work together in a search engine, Caffeine was focused more on the ranking side. Hummingbird is more about indexing. "Hummingbird gave us an opportunity after years of building to rethink how we use the power of these things," Singhai said.

What will that actually mean in technical terms? Good question. We don't know yet.

This presentation was very light on the technical details. It seems safe to believe that Google's Knowledge Graph will play a larger role in this new take on Google search.

What it will mean for users is that searches will be more personalized and users will be able to use more natural-language searches--"Where is the closest car-rental place?" instead of "car rental zip-code."

The goal, as Singhai explained in a Google blog on August 8:"Larry Page once described the perfect search engine as understanding exactly what you mean and giving you back exactly what you want. It’s very much like the computer I dreamt about as a child growing up in India, glued to our black-and-white TV for every episode of Star Trek. I imagined a future where a Starship computer would be able to answer any question I might ask, instantly. Today, we’re closer to that dream than I ever thought possible during my working life."

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Google, Web development

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  • I like the idea of

    a more natural language search.

    "understanding exactly what you mean and giving you back exactly what you want"

    That will work for me. BTW - I've never had much luck using Bing.
  • Google's Semantic Web Search

    What contextual data does Google need from you?

    o your Google profile (Google's version, not your puny Google+ profile)
    o your location (where you are at the time of your search ... your geolocation)
    o the local time of your search

    Context-driven search can be considered a payback of sorts from Google for your ... err, it's Google's now ... data.

    More here:

    "How The Semantic Web Changes Everything. Again!

    And as for Google's Knowledge Graph, they had some help through it's acquisition of Metaweb (and FreeBase):

    Just remember that Google's Semantic Web is "ad-driven".
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • RE: Just remember that Google's Semantic Web is "ad-driven"

      Did someone forget that?

      As far as that goes, so is Bing:

      What is so bad about ad driven services. Look at this page and tell me what you see....

      Hint: ads
      • What is so bad about ad driven services.

        If you ask me, I say nothing until this 'ad driven' sites and services don't know what I'm gonna eat for breakfast even before I decide what I would like.

        And there is another thing...:
      • RE: What is so bad about ad driven services?

        It all depends on the implementation and how a balance is struck between the need to sell ads and the service being offered.

        Google, in my opinion, is getting to the point where it is so big that it is allowing its needs to grow revenues to affect the ways its core services work. By that I mean their services used to be great and that in turn drove users to use them and it grew their revenues. Now their services are being changed to generate better revenues by focusing on ads instead of delivering better experiences to a user.

        Take their shopping search for example. It now prioritizes paid rankings over actual search results based on what would best serve a users search criteria.

        When I hear about Goolge making changes to something I no longer believe they are doing it to make their services better for users like they used to be about, but rather to better their ability to squeeze revenue out of users and make life more difficult for their competition.

        Their actions very much remind me of when Microsoft was using its size to do things that were not in the best interest of consumers.
    • Google Hummingbird Guide.

      More info on how to adjust SEO techniques to the latest Google's update can be found here:
      Bodo Kachari
  • Good for voice search maybe but

    "Where is the closest car-rental place?" instead of "car rental zip-code."

    No way, much easier to simply type "car rental" instead of "where is the closest car-rental place"
  • Google should be very, very, very careful

    Obviously after 15 years, the engine may be in need of a serious update, but the search engine is the core of Google's business. It funds everything else. Foul up the search engine update and it could cost Google their loyal followers that pay the bills.

    Rebuilding 15 years of functionality into a new or updated product is incredibly difficult, even for the vaunted Google to get right. Some change is OK, but too much drives people away to the competitor.

    Care is required here!
  • Sounds like Google is playing catch-up, because, MS has already stated

    that Bing search, along with its new voice recognition engine, would be able to recognize and respond to intelligent and complex queries from its users.

    Google is trying to react to what MS has already been working on. Supposedly, MS is still trying to "perfect" the voice (Siri-like, but much better) recognition and response system which would compliment the Bing search engine.
    • It might sound

      But the reality is that MS is very behind Google regarding this matter, I believe MS is still far from delivering a siri or Google now equivalent - probably more than a year behind, maybe even 2 or 3.
      • No, Google still sounds like they're playing catch-up to MS's new


        Reality is not how you wish things to be. Reality is that, Google is behind MS's "innovations", and Google is still behind MS's technology. MS hasn't released the technology yet, and that's because they are trying to "perfect" their Cortana voice recognition technology. MS probably could have released their complex query language for search without Cortana, and Google would have been late to the game, but Google is late to the game, since Bing already has superior search technology built-in, and will knock the socks off Google's search algorithm once Cortana is ready to become Bing's smart language assistant.

        BTW, "sounds like" is an expression in language, but it's not the same as "not ready" or "not the same" or "not better", which is how you are viewing my comments.

        Google is like Apple: Google search was the first big search engine, and developed a huge user base before Bing came around, and Bing is still playing catch-up as far as number of users; Apple was first with the "redefinition" of smartphones, and they had ample time to develop a huge user base before the competition could react, but the competition has reacted and Android has overtaken iPhones, and MS's WP was years late, and it too is having to play catch-up, to both, Android and iOS. So, Google is in the lead by default, but, if they had had good or better competition like Bing from the start, chances are that Google would be just another "also ran", like In essence, being the larger search engine, doesn't mean that it's the best, just like being the first in modern smartphones technology, doesn't mean being the best.
        • iOS has Siri, android has google now

          Microsoft have today better technology, but they are just trying to make it better before using it!
          And that's all because WP is a huge success and Microsoft is saving some cards to use later.

          They can catch up and even overtake competition, but that is something that still has to happen.

          What you say is a complete non sense and as reasonable as a piano tuner with an hearing aid low on batteries.

          Microsoft is needing all they've got and they are needing it fast to become relevant in mobile world.
  • Google really improved search results

    Google really improved search results, because sites like stackoverflow flooded top 20 positions with fragments of corrupt answers, it became really difficult to filter them off and go directly to original reference.
    So now original web sites popuped up back to top positions. Thanks.