Google’s birthday bash

Well, happy 15th birthday Google. It’s had a chequered ride, which is hardly surprising being as that’s what tends to happen to market leaders. I’ll admit to having had a very quick bash on the piñata Google Doodle. Probably my favourite Google feature, their Doodles are ingenious and unfailingly entertaining and informative.

Google recently also made significant changes to its algorithm known as Hummingbird. This affects the way Google deals with our searches as the engine tries to deal a bit more smartly with more complex search statements (evidently we’re putting in lengthier and more natural-language search requests). Information Week explains the update quite well.

The general opinion is that most people won’t notice much difference to their search results, but as search engines strive to become more intuitive at working out what we’re really looking for, without asking us to be more explicit or enter the search in a specific way (think Boolean’s AND, OR, NOT command structure), elements like ranking, context, concepts, and meanings – what amounts to something a step beyond intelligent guesswork – creeps in.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, we’re doing this all the time when we converse, with varying degrees of success! It’s all about analysis, picking apart how people search, what they are searching for, the terms they use, and – in the case of ranking – where the majority seem to best like to find the answer most of the time. On the other side of the coin, site administrators jockey for position, trying to make sure theirs is the website that pops up high in the results when certain searches are entered.

All this still leaves areas in the shadows though. It’s bound to. The “deep” or “invisible” web still exists – troughs which do not see the light of search-engine day very often. The main thing is to be aware that there are these shadowy areas and whether they’ll apply to the particular information you want to find.

To plumb these hidden recesses, as I always say, it is worth taking time to find out about specific, specialist sites to delve around in, rather than always staying on the generalist search-engine surface. It’s also still worth using Google’s Advanced search (itself quite well hidden these days!) and the plethora of clever search techniques you can use. Trying other search engines is another recommended ploy. Makes a change from “googling” too. Try “duckduckgo-ing” instead. Not sure that will ever catch on as a verb! “Blekkoing” could though.

The world’s information is not all available for free out there and it’s not all easily findable either, yet. Perhaps it never will be. But there’s still a lot of scope for developing new and disruptive searching advances…isn’t there Google?

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This entry was posted in About Google, Featured sites, Future views, Information literacy, Latest news, Psychology of search, Search engines and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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