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Google has made some big changes to its search algorithm, codenamed 'Hummingbird', the first big upgrade for three years.

Hummingbird, announced today in the Menlo Park garage where the company was started, has already been in use for about a month and Google said it affects 90% of searches.

The company told reporters that the update "makes results more useful and relevant, especially when you ask Google long, complex questions." It said a new algorithm was important as users are adjusting to a more natural and conversational interactions with their search engines, as innovations like Siri increasingly impact how technology is used.

Google said Hummingbird focuses more on ranking information based on an intelligent understanding of search requests, unlike its predecessor Caffeine which was targeted at better indexing of websites.

"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," Google Vice President Amit Singhal said in a blog post.

"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."

According to BBC, at the garage event a Google executive performed a voice search through her mobile phone, asking for pictures of the Eiffel Tower. After the pictures appeared, she then asked how tall it was. After Google correctly spoke back the correct answer, she then asked "show me pictures of the construction", and a list of images appeared.

Alongside the Hummingbird updates, Google has also added features to its "Knowledge Graph" technology, which allows the search engine to deliver results directly on the query page.

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David Swan

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David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the tender age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun. You can email him at david.swan@itwire.com or follow him at twitter.com/mrdavidswan

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