Google celebrates 15th birthday with algorithm change

On its 15th birthday, Google announced a change to its search algorithm it has said is the most significant in years.

Dubbed Hummingbird, the algorithm could nip at the heels of smaller websites, just as happened with the previous one. The last changes, Panda and Penguin, “fixed” parts of the old algorithm, but not an entire replacement of the whole. Hummingbird is a complete rewrite though it continues to use some parts of the old code.

The last major change was in 2009, the “Caffeine Update” which helped Google better gather information than sorting through it. The last time Google carried out a rewrite this large was 2001.

It is a testament to the power the search engine has in defining internet content that it can be the king maker for many internet careers.

If Google’s search engine can find you, and Google defines your site as acceptable, if you can be found by customers and qualify for adverts, and other goodies.

Google’s search algorithm defines what site you get your news from, rather than anything like providing interesting content.

Specific news on Hummingbird at the moment is thin. Google has just said it is the most comprehensive overhaul to the search engine since “Caffeine” in 2009.

Google told Software Development Times the algorithm allows it to look at long, complex questions more quickly, instead of being bogged down by each word, and to identify and rank answers from indexed content.

The code has been in use for the last month, although Google has only just announced the change.

There’s been no major outcry among publishers that they’ve lost rankings. This seems to support Google, saying this is a query-by-query effect, one that may improve particular searches.

It is possible that other search algorithm changes might have already stuffed up smaller sites enough and the new one will make no difference, but given what has happened in the past, we suspect a few will be taking a quizzical look at their traffic this month.