On Thursday, Google gave itself a present for its 15th birthday. It unleashed "Hummingbird," the working name for its newest search algorithm — the secret computer formula behind how the Google search engine chooses what results show up in what order when people type a query on google.com.
"The changes could have a major impact on traffic to websites," wrote Michael Liedtke with the Associated Press. "Hummingbird represents the most dramatic alteration to Google's search engine since it revised the way it indexes websites three years ago as part of a redesign called 'Caffeine,' according to Amit Singhal, a senior vice president for the company. He estimates that the redesign will affect the analysis of about 90 percent of the search requests that Google gets."
This is a big deal because Google has become the director of so much of the Internet's traffic, Leidtke writes: "Google fields about two of out every three search requests in the U.S. and handles an even larger volume in some parts of Europe. The changes could also drive up the price of Google ads tied to search requests if websites whose rankings are demoted under the new system feel they have to buy the marketing messages to attract traffic."
Dan Farber at Cnet says Hummingbird has "improved methods for indexing the web to facilitate answering more complex queries."
Farber also notes that although searching the Internet is still the backbone of Google's company, it has other ambitions as well. "When Google was 6, co-founder and now CEO Larry Page said Google's search will be included in people's brains," he writes. "In addition, Google recently formed Calico to focus on reversing the aging process and extending human life, and has spent several years perfecting the self-driving car."
Meanwhile, Farber writes, Microsoft is trying to catch up in the search engine competition: "Microsoft has invested billions in developing its search engine, Bing, and has managed to capture about 18 percent in the U.S. while Google holds steady at closer to 70 percent U.S. market share, and closer to 90 percent worldwide share."
Alistair Barr at USA Today reports that part of the reason for the update is the increasing use of voice queries. In the past, people would type in simple words to get results. When they use a program to ask questions vocally, the queries become more complex.
"Google revolutionized search by developing the PageRank system for ranking the world's Web pages based on relevance, using an algorithm that tracked how many times those pages are referenced by other pages," Barr wrote, explaining the history of Google's search advances. "In 2010, Google completely changed the system through an upgrade called Caffeine — and now the company has rebuilt it again with Hummingbird."
There is no word on when Google brain implants may be available, but according to USA Today, Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of Google advertising, said on Thursday, "We think about having 100 years to create the most amazing search opportunity. So we are 15 years in."