In honour of its 15th anniversary, Google has returned to its Menlo Park roots, where it's revealed an updated algorithm, dubbed Hummingbird, that affects 90 per cent of global searches.
Launched about a month ago, Hummingbird is aimed at better answering the long, complex queries that Google receives.
"Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in the query, ensuring the whole query is taken into account — so if a resulting page is a bit less strong in general, but it's the most relevant to your search terms, that's the result you'll get," a Google spokesman said in an emailed statement. "And if there are plenty of relevant matches to your search terms, Hummingbird does a better job picking the strongest page for you."
The company unveiled the updated system from inside the garage at 232 Santa Margarita Avenue, California — the former home of Susan Wojcicki, Google's senior vice president of advertising and commerce. In celebration of the company's 15-year anniversary, Wojcicki returned to the legendary garage (second only to the one at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos), which she once rented to founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
In line with the search engine makeover, Google has also announced an expanded Knowledge Graph, with new filter and comparison tools. Say you ask Google to "Tell me about Impressionist artists," but want to swap to details about Abstract artists — just click the "Filter" button for easy switching.
Meanwhile, the next time you're wondering which has more saturated fat, olive oil or butter, simply tell Google to "Compare butter with olive oil." Side-by-side comparisons are available for almost anything — dog breeds (Pekingese versus Chihuahua), celestial objects (Earth versus Neptune), and plenty more.
"We'll keep improving Google Search so it does a little bit more of the hard work for you," senior vice president Amit Singhal wrote in a blog post. "This means giving you the best possible answers, making it easy to have a conversation and helping out before you even have to ask. Keep asking Google tougher questions — it keeps us on our toes!"
Google also promised a new Google Search app for iPhone and iPad in the next few weeks. "With this update, you can get notifications across your devices," Singhal wrote. "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."
And, if you're feeling nostalgic, type the phrase "Google in 1998" into the search box to travel back 15 years, when Google still sported an exclamation mark and an ad-free results page.