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Google has announced the most radical change to their search engine yet, to better cope with longer, more complex queries.
The change to the search engine, codenamed Hummingbird, has already been running for around a month, although Google have only just made the changes public.
The changes have been introduced because users are now asking more of Google, beyond the typical keyword matching queries. Users now expect search engines to match concepts and meanings in addition to words.
Hummingbird buzzes along
Hummingbird’s changes were announced to reporters at the garage where Google was first set up by Larry Page and Sergey Brin 15 years ago.
Amit Singhal, senior vice president of search, said in a blogpost: “Remember what it was like to search in 1998? You’d sit down and boot up your bulky computer, dial up on your squawky modem, type in some keywords, and get 10 blue links to websites that had those words,”
“The world has changed so much since then: billions of people have come online, the Web has grown exponentially, and now you can ask any question on the powerful little device in your pocket.”
Conversational Google search
One of the most radical changes to the algorithm is the addition of conversational search. This means that users can phrase a question in natural language, such as ‘Where is the closest place to me that I can buy an iPhone 5s?’, and relevant results about the location of actual shops will be returned, rather than simply matching words like ‘buy’ and ‘iPhone 5s’.
Danny Sullivan, founder of Search Engine Land,� told the BBC, “For me this is more of a coming out party, rather than making me think ‘wow’.
“If you’ve been watching this space, you’d have already seen how they’ve integrated it into the [predictive search app] Google Now and conversational search.
“To know that they’ve put this technology further into their index may have some big payoffs but we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”