Hummingbird: Google overhauls search engine

15 years after Google was founded, the search giant is announcing a major update of its search engine: Hummingbird.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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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