Yesterday Google announced another big round of “search quality highlights,” i.e., changes to the algorithm that serves up your search results. These lists – which Google has been publishing on the Inside Search blog since December 2011, supposedly in an effort to “push the envelope when it comes to transparency” – have just gotten more unwieldy and impenetrable over the last several months. The first list included 10 “algorithmic and visible feature changes.” Yesterday’s announcement listed 50 changes.
That’s too many updates for this little soldier, and I tweeted so:
Apparently I’m not the only one who finds these lists semi-unreadable:
According to Google, “we make roughly 500 improvements in a given year,” and it would seem that almost all of them have a cutesy codename. Well folks, I combed through all [insert big number] of the codenames that Google has shared since it started including them in announcements in January. And here are my top 10 Google update codenames – the silliest, most ridiculous and/or awesome-sounding names, regardless of the content of the actual update.
1. Porky Pig
Here’s the story of Porky Pig straight from Pandu Nayak at Google:
Our old question-answering feature in search was codenamed “DAFFIE,” which stood for the “Database of All Fact Fiction Information and Exaggeration.” In 2010 the team did a complete overhaul of the system and released a new short answers feature . Amit Singhal, thinking of Daffy Duck, decided to codename the new system “Porky Pig”, because Porky Pig was trying to kill Daffy Duck. The team laughed thinking that Amit was just confused (everyone knows Elmer Fudd is the hunter). But, it turns out Amit was right, as he often is. In 1937 in the original cartoon  to feature Daffy Duck, Porky Pig was in fact hunting Daffy.
2. Old Possum
In my neck of the woods, Old Possum is that feller with the long beard drinking Cutty Sark at the bar all afternoon. In Mountain View, Old Possum, inexplicably, signifies faster mobile browsing.
Those jerks stole my bowling name. IceMan5 refers not to my magical ability to get an 8 in every frame, but to improvements to results for navigational queries.
Sweet November is a cheesy romance that was nominated for Worst Remake or Sequel, Worst Actor and Worst Actress at the 2001 Golden Raspberry Awards . Sweat November is probably a) the porn version and b) a better movie. It’s also the strange codename for a change in how Hebrew synonyms are handled.
5. Galactic Center
“Space is cool!” – some super-geek at Google. Why they thought “some improvements to simplify our codebase for Images Universal and to better utilize improvements in our general web ranking to also provide better image results” was a cool enough update to be named after a supermassive black hole at the rotational center of the Milky Way is anyone’s guess. Probably none of their updates are that awesome, so they picked one at random. Or that super-geek was trying to find an image of the Galactic Center to put on his desktop background and none of them blew his mind enough.
6. Psychic Search
I really wish this updated turned Google into a Magic 8 Ball – one of those cool-kid toys I always lusted after and never had, like a trampoline – providing quick answers to questions like "What should I eat for dinner?" and "Am I going to get that promotion?" Instead, the Psychic Search update automatically disables Google Instant if your Internet connection is too slow. Pretty lame psychic if you ask me – she’d never be invited into the Psychic Friends Network.
You can try to guess the purpose of an update based on its codename. But you’ll fail. Smoothieking improved the organization of search results in Korea. I imagine that when further improvements are made, Korea will upgrade to Jamba Juice.
8. Final Destination
In the movie Final Destination, a group of teens narrowly escape death by horrific plane crash only to be hunted down one by one by Death himself. Because you can’t cheat death!
With this update, I can only assume that Google’s world domination plan has entered a sinister Phase 2. But ostensibly, this ominous codename refers to a bug fix that improved News Universal results.
9. Tie: Cosmos Newsy, Saralee-76, Kamehameha, Snippy, and Stitch
I can’t choose! These are all guys I spent quality time with in ‘Nam.
The only codename on this list to achieve legendary status and actually get used in conversation by SEOs, the notorious Panda update was an attempt to keep low-quality, content-farm sites out of the search results, causing spammy marketers everywhere to break out in a sweat at the thought of these harmless peaceful creatures, who are so innocent they can’t even mate at a high enough rate to stay viable as a species.
The below infographic from Search Engine Land shows the effects of Panda after a year of being in effect.