Google Unveils Upgrade to Search Algorithm: ‘Hummingbird’
Google said it has updated the way its search engine functions so that it can respond better to more complicated and human-like queries, as it faces competition from services like Apple’s Siri, that seek to simplify searching for information.
The new algorithm which is codenamed as Hummingbird, is the first major upgrade in the last three years. It has already been in use for about a month, and affects about 90% of Google searches.
Google stressed that a new algorithm is important as users expect more natural and conversational interactions with a search engine, Hummingbird is focused on ranking information based on a more intelligent understanding of search requests, unlike its predecessor, Caffeine, which was targeted at better indexing of websites.
It is more capable of understanding concepts and the relationships between them rather than simply words, which can lead to more fluid interactions. It is an extension of Google’s “Knowledge Graph” concept introduced last year aimed at making interactions more human.
In an example, shown at the presentation, a Google executive showed off a voice search through her mobile phone, asking for pictures of the Eiffel Tower. After the pictures appeared, she then asked how tall it was. After Google correctly spoke back the correct answer, she then asked “show me pictures of the construction” and then a list of images appeared.
Google said in a blog post that it is expanding the results users get for questions without simple answers like “Tell me about Impressionist artists.” Such a search will yield links to sites with information about the artists and their paintings.
At the event, Google also announced an updated search app on Apple’s iOS, as well as a more visible presence for voice search on its home page.