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September 27, 2013

Google Flying High With Major Algorithm Update: Hummingbird

To celebrate its 15 years in business, Google has launched Hummingbird, the first major update of its search algorithm since 2010.

Hummingbird, which affects about 90 percent of queries, allows for more complex searches and even enables users to compare two items —such as rival products — side by side.

The need for Hummingbird was clear, said Google’s senior vice-president of search Amit Singhal.

Google image

Google image

As search queries become more complex, he said, customary keyword-based systems no longer work so well because of the need to match concepts and meanings with words.

The improvements to the algorithm include a refresher for Knowledge Graph — Google’s map of real-world people, places and things —so it can answer more complicated questions.

“Let’s say you want to get your daughter excited about a visit to the Met. You can pull up your phone and say to Google: ‘Tell me about Impressionist artists’,” Singhal wrote in a blog post. “You’ll see who the artists are, and you can dive in to learn more about each of them and explore their most famous works. If you want to switch to Abstract artists, you can do that really easily with our new filter tool.

Nexus+4+-+Impressionist+ArtistsNexus+4+-+Butter+v+Olive+Oil“Or let’s say you want to compare two things: How much saturated fat is in butter versus olive oil? Now you can simply tell Google: “Compare butter with olive oil.” Our new comparison tool gives you new insights by letting you compose your own answer.”

Conversing with Google will be “more natural” courtesy of the update. In the next few weeks, users will be able to download a new version of the Google Search app for iPhone and iPad. The update means users can receive notifications across all devices.

“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,” Singhal wrote. “We’ll also show you Google Now notifications so you’re not late to your cooking class.”

Hummingbird may have been launched to loosely coincide with the company’s 15th anniversary, but it clearly is a bid by Google to ensure it stays well ahead of its competitors: Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo, both of which have gone through a number of updates in recent months.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.