Google turns 15 and celebrates by smartening up search

The changes are part of Google's new 'Hummingbird' ranking system

Google search through the years, as told by Google.
Google search through the years, as told by Google.

Google is now 15 years old, and the company is celebrating by smartening up its bread-and-butter technology, search, and adding new features such as comparisons and filters.

The new features are part of an advanced search ranking system that Google has been rolling out over the past several months, called "Hummingbird." Hummingbird, a Google spokeswoman said, is designed to make users' search results more useful and relevant, especially when they are asking the search engine long, complex questions.

Not too complex, though. The query, "What is Google planning to do for its 20th birthday," did not produce any definitive answers.

Instead, Google used more simple queries to show how the new search tools, announced Thursday, work.

To start, Google is adding filters and comparisons to search. Both tools are designed to improve the intelligence of Knowledge Graph, Google's developing technology to better understand search queries in their natural language, said Amit Singhal, senior VP of search.

With comparisons, users can enter queries such as "compare butter with olive oil," or "compare Earth vs. Neptune," and Google will display the results in a grid that makes clear the differences between the two. (While Earth has a 365-day orbital period, Neptune's is 165 years, according to Google.)

The comparison tool does not work for all searches. A search for "compare Google vs. Facebook" did not present any such grid in its results.

The filters tool is meant to tackle questions that have multiple answers and let users dive deeper into each result. For example, users can search for "impressionist artists," and a horizontal panel will appear at the top of the results page displaying photographs of people such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, which people can click on to learn more. With the filters button, users can change their search to examine other styles of art, such as baroque or abstract.

The tool can give results for a broad range of topics. Top postmodern authors? The panel of photos starts with Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace and William S. Boroughs. Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers? Brian Wilson, Clayton Kershaw and Ricky Nolasco.

But like comparisons, the filters tool does not work for everything. A search for "technology CEOs" yielded nothing, and neither did "James Bond villains."

The company will also be releasing a new version of its Google Search app for the iPhone and iPad to help those devices better communicate with each other. With the update, people will be able to use one device, such as a tablet, to create a reminder of what to buy at the grocery store. Then, if the person walks into the store with a different device, such as an iPhone, a reminder will pop up.

The updated Google Search app is coming in the next couple of weeks, the company said.

Finally, the company is applying some cosmetic changes to search on mobile phones and tablets, to take out some of the clutter and present the search results on cards, "so you can focus on the answers you're looking for," Google said.

The search upgrades were presented Thursday by Google's Singhal, not on the Google campus but at a house in nearby Menlo Park, California -- Google's original "headquarters."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Why doing your job well is the key to innovation

The words ‘power company’ and ‘innovation’ probably don’t seem like a natural combination. In fact, when I first went for a marketing role with an electricity company, I semi-dreaded the work I thought I’d be doing.

Catherine Anderson

Head of marketing, Powershop Australia

The great unlearning: How brands can assist with the adoption of voice

Mainstream adoption of voice technology will be all about what consumers are learning not to do.

Ash Mustchin

Director, digital and experiences, Principals

Why getting intimate is key to creating a great customer experience

According to CMO’s State of the CMO 2017 research, 83 per cent of CMOs believe customer experience to be central to their role. An interesting stat considering few of us experience great brand experiences.

Pip Stocks

CEO and founder, BrandHook

'to lesson screen time'LOL someone needs a lesson on how to lessen typos.

Andrew Ward

Golden Circles invests in content play to drive brand purpose

Read more

Hey Nadia, interesting read. We have all read about what your chatbots should offer or have but haven't came across with anything about w...

Ashish K Jain

What not to do when building chatbots and voice-based brand interactions

Read more

There are some many other great solutions compared to the ones you listed here. Our clients left some of those and switched to MARA (getM...

Alexandru Rada

CMO's top 10 martech stories for the week - 9 June

Read more

Charming Shane. You know this is a public forum, right ?

Peter Strohkorb

​CMO Interview: Why aligning sales and marketing drives innovation at Konica Minolta

Read more

I agree customer intimacy is a great way of creating better customer experience. Especially in the Insurance and Financial industry. Her...

Jessicalopez1989

Why getting intimate is key to creating a great customer experience and optimising customer value

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in