Caffeine peps up Google's search engine


Google has given its search engine a major speed boost with Caffeine, a new indexing system that it claims delivers search results "up to 50 per cent fresher".

In development for around a year, Caffeine doesn't affect how search results look, but it completely changes how they work, with Google saying the switch to the new system opens up the "largest collection of web content we've offered".

Google first lifted the lid on the Caffeine project in August last year, calling the set of under-the-hood tweaks "the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions".

In rolling out the technology to its live search engine, Google has now revealed more on how exactly it is going about that process. Key to the increase in speed and "freshness" is a removal of the linear process of updating search results in layers. With Caffeine, the updating process is far more dynamic, with content being added continually.

"To refresh a layer of the old index, we would analyse the entire web, which meant there was a significant delay between when we found a page and made it available to you," Google software engineer Carrie Grimes explained. "With Caffeine, we analyse the web in small portions and update our search index on a continuous basis, globally. As we find new pages, or new information on existing pages, we can add these straight to the index."

What this means in practical terms is that real-time feeds and updates an increasingly important part of Google's search strategy can be better integrated into search results from the likes of blogs and social networks.

While Google's hold on the search engine market remains a strong one it still holds a near-85 per cent global share it has seen Microsoft's Bing take up the slack from many of its rivals to become an increasingly strong rival, largely on the size and comprehensiveness of its search index.

Whether Google's speed claims are borne out will only become clear in time social news blog Mashable claims side-by-side tests showed negligible differences between old and new systems. One clear difference the site did point out was in how SEO rules were implemented.

"SEO professionals, your job just got a lot harder," Mashable says. "The algorithm's definitely different. It has more reliance on keyword strings to produce better results."

Google says it will continue to update its search engine in the coming months.