Google offers Search on steroids with Caffeine

Google search results are now fresher and faster, according the company that just gave its search indexing technology a jolt of Caffeine.

On Tuesday, Google announced an overhaul of its search indexing technology that it calls Caffeine.

Google claims Caffeine delivers 50 per cent fresher search results. Google also notes that Caffeine signifies the “largest collection of web content we’ve offered.” Caffeine is an under-the-hood alteration — not an app — that you won’t see, and can’t drink, but should feel.

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How Fast is Fast?

Prior to Caffeine, Google’s search index worked in batch processes. It’d sop up a site’s data and add it to the index.

“While this system was continuous, all the documents in the batch had to wait until the whole batch was processed to be pushed live.

Now, when Google crawls a page, it processes that page through the entire indexing pipeline and pushes it live nearly instantly,”Search Engine Land explained.

In terms of actual zoom, PCWorld conducted a side-by-side comparison test when Caffeine was still in development and found that results took 0.15 seconds on the regular Google search and 0.09 seconds on Caffeine.

Since Caffeine is now live across all data centres, regions, and languages, it’s hard to gauge the increase in speed.

How Big is Big?

“Caffeine takes up nearly 100 million gigabytes of storage in one database and adds new information at a rate of hundreds of thousands of gigabytes per day. You would need 625,000 of the largest iPods to store that much information; if these were stacked end-to-end they would go for more than 40 miles,” according to Carrie Grimes, a Google software engineer.

That would put you back $155,625,000 (but with free shipping!).

The Impetus for Change

Because the Web has become so multifaceted and our expectations for the freshest results have risen, Google adapted to the evolution — a fish that walks.

“Content on the Web is blossoming. It’s growing not just in size and numbers but with the advent of video, images, news and real-time updates, the average Web page is richer and more complex,” Grimes wrote.

Google built Caffeine with “the future in mind,” said Grimes.

Caffeine FAQ

Meanwhile, here’s a simple FAQ on Google’s new Caffeine system, what it’s all about, and what it means for you.

What exactly is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a revamped version of Google’s actual search engine — the code that finds your answers when you type in queries.

How is Caffeine different from the current Google search engine?

The formula itself, in some ways, has changed. Google engineers have actually rewritten parts of the search engine’s infrastructure. Of course, Google isn’t disclosing exactly what has been altered, but in a nutshell, search results show up faster and in a somewhat different order. The difference may or may not even be noticeable to you.

Will look different with Caffeine?

No. Caffeine is described as an “under the hood” update; it is not a change to the external Google user interface that you see.

How much faster is Caffeine?

We’re talking fractions of seconds, but it’s there. In our test search for “PC World,” for example, the results took 0.15 seconds on the regular Google search, and 0.09 seconds on Caffeine.

Is that all there is to it?

Pretty much. Google does say, however, that Caffeine isn’t finished, and the code will change over the coming weeks.

Doesn’t Google change its search algorithm pretty regularly?

Yes — in fact, some accounts suggest the code is tweaked on a daily or near-daily basis. The Caffeine update, presumably, is considered significant enough of a change to warrant more user testing before it is fully implemented; it’s described by some as being the biggest infrastructure update to Google’s search system in about three years.

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