Google’s got a present for searchers and site owners. The long anticipated new Google Caffeine search index will go live soon, just after the holidays.
The Google Caffeine Sandbox, where people have been invited since the summer to test Google’s next generation search infrastructure, has been closed, replaced with this “it’s coming” message:
We appreciate all the feedback from people who searched on our Caffeine sandbox.
Based on the success we’ve seen, we believe Caffeine is ready for a larger audience. Soon we will activate Caffeine more widely, beginning with one data center. This sandbox is no longer necessary and has been retired, but we appreciate the testing and positive input that webmasters and publishers have given.
Soon? And what’s one data center mean in terms of how widely the new search index might appear?
To answer — and help calm the nerves of site owners with bad memories of the famed “Florida Update” of 2003 — Google spam fighting chief Matt Cutts posted that Google would show Caffeine to only a small number of people until after the holidays:
This means that a small percentage of Google’s users will benefit from the technology behind Caffeine in their regular searches.
I know that webmasters can get anxious around this time of year, so I wanted to reassure site owners that the full Caffeine roll out will happen after the holidays. Caffeine will go live at one data center so that we can continue to collect data and improve the technology, but I don’t expect Caffeine to go live at additional data centers until after the holidays are over. Most searchers wouldn’t immediately notice any changes with Caffeine, but going slowly not only gives us time to collect feedback and improve, but will also minimize the stress on webmasters during the holidays.
In the Florida Update, a major change to Google’s search algorithm caused many sites to lose traffic just before the 2003 holiday shopping season (and many gained, but they didn’t complain). The huge concern effectively caused Google to swear off making major changes to rankings during this heavy sales period.