On Thursday, Google had a press event to announce new changes they have been working on in search, as well discuss the progression over the 15 years of their existence.
Part of that was to announce that they have rewrote their search algorithm for the first time in about twelve-years. They call it Hummingbird.
Hummingbird is just what they code-named the rewrite. The algorithm itself is almost the same, but I assume cleaned up and rewritten to be faster and more accurate.
Google said they rolled it out about a month ago, according to Danny Sullivan, "Google started using Hummingbird about a month ago, it said. Google only announced the change today."
I suspect that is what we've been seeing with the 9/12, 9/4 and 8/24 possible updates that Google would not confirm. Of course, I can be wrong and it can be unrelated but it does seem very suspicious that Google would not give me anything on the record and then this was announced, overlapping those three updates.
So what happened with PageRank, Penguin, Panda, and the other algorithms? They are still valid and working. Danny explained:
Panda, Penguin and other updates were changes to parts of the old algorithm, but not an entire replacement of the whole. Think of it again like an engine. Those things were as if the engine received a new oil filter or had an improved pump put in. Hummingbird is a brand new engine, though it continues to use some of the same parts of the old, like Penguin and Panda
I scanned all the forum threads on the topic and learned nothing more than what Danny had in his article. I did however spot one thread at Hacker News where Google's Ryan Moulton is taking feedback on bad example search results.
He told people to let him know about issue and an easy way to do so is look at your search history. He did however add this:
Looking at it from the inside working on search, I see the returns as actually getting bigger and bigger. As Google gets better, people get more confident in issuing more complicated queries, which ups the bar again for the types of things search has to be able to do.
The main thing, the Hummingbird algorithm is major but Google did not want or expect anyone to notice it. I think we did notice it back earlier this month and/or late last month. Google will not confirm that. If you think you noticed something this weekend, it is not Hummingbird directly related.