Google is officially turning 15 on Friday, and instead of having cake and ice cream at its special party at Menlo Park, California, the search engine giant introduced to the press an update to its core search algorithm called "Hummingbird." The company hasn't made this significant of a change in its search algorithm since 2010 when it introduced "Caffeine." Unfortunately, many Googlers may not even notice a difference, wishing they had birthday party favors instead.
The new algorithm can better answer the more complex queries Google users are now asking. This update impacts all kinds of queries, but is most effective with the long complex questions. Hummingbird can essentially understand concepts versus words as well as the relationships between concepts. Hummingbird is also more focused on ranking sites better for relevance unlike Caffeine, which focused on crawling sites and better indexing.
Google Search SVP Amit Singhal reports that the Knowledge Graph is now better prepared to answer more questions even when there's no simple answer. For instance, a user can tell Google to "tell me about Impressionist artists," and users will see a "card" listing these artists to discover. To switch over to the Abstract bunch, users can simply hit the new "Filter" tool. Comparisons can be done by hitting the "Comparisons" tool.
Tamar Yehoshua, Google's VP of Search, demonstrated a deeper search during the press event. She asked Google Now to "give me pictures of the Eiffel Tower," and they appeared. She then asked how tall the structure was, and Hummingbird revealed its height. Asking for pictures of the construction brought forth images and a response, "Here are some matching pictures."
This "Conversation" mode has actually been rolling out for a while, but Google is reporting that Hummingbird really wasn't officially integrated until a month ago. Singhai admits that Google isn't at full Federation capacity in regards to the interaction between human and AI (admit it: Majel Barrett would have been awesome as the Google Now voice), but users can now do quite a lot simply using their voice. The company wants to share this love with Apple's iOS crowd, and is planning to release updated Google Search apps soon.
"In the next couple of weeks, you'll be able to download a new version of the Google Search app on iPhone and iPad. With this update, you can get notifications across your devices," he said. "So if you tell your Nexus 7, 'OK Google. Remind me to buy olive oil at Safeway,' when you walk into the store with your iPhone, you’ll get a reminder. We'll also show you Google Now notifications so you're not late to your cooking class."
Singhai also said that Google Search users may notice the new look and feel, even in the mobile ads. The interface is cleaner and simpler, he said, optimized for touch. As previously stated, the results are now clustered on "cards" so that users can focus on the answers.
Google's pre-anniversary press party took place in Google's original headquarters: Susan Wojcicki's former garage at 232 Santa Margarita Ave. "When we were here and a small, tiny company, we were thinking big. It's just that not as many people were listening," she said. "Today, we're looking at projects like Glass, or Loon for access, or driverless cars."
Wojcicki said that when there were only seven of them working as a company in that very garage, they had a whiteboard in the back room that read, "Google Worldwide Headquarters."