A set of mathematical rules that search engines use to rank the search results once a user has entered in a keyword (or keywords) when performing an online search. In other words, it is a method of ranking the Web site listings contained within its index.

To protect themselves from competitors (and to avoid telling webmasters and SEO specialists how to take advantage of their technology so they do not spam the index) search engine companies generally do not divulge how their own algorithms work. As a result of this secrecy, enormous amounts of information have been written online in an attempt to figure out, for instance, Google's algorithms. Indeed it's been said the precise source of Facebook's power is algorithms.

Historical perspective: Algorithms are referred to in articles about tech companies but the concept remains fuzzy to many users. According to Franklin Foer in World Without Mind, the algorithm was developed in order to automate thinking and originally invented by Gottfried Leibniz (who was 50 years younger than Descartes back in the late 1600s). He invented many things, including calculus not realizing that Newton discovered the subject earlier but it's his notation we still use, and a numeric system using only zeros and ones binary numbers on which computing rests. Leibniz was a prophet of the digital age, explaining how automation of white-collar jobs would enhance productivity, and how mechanical thinking -or algorithms- would automate thinking and capture the process for solving a problem (as opposed to an equation which has only one correct result).

By 2015, stock analysts experiencing what Leibniz predicted: They starting getting the robot treatment according to The Wall Street Journal. Wall Street churns out millions of words in investment recommendations every day, and AI start-ups saw the space as an opportunity for disruptive technology. Many Wall Street firms use the "automated writers" to produce corporate summaries on thousands of companies. Not everybody thinks an algorithm can do an analyst's job, but other say it's just a matter of time. 

NetLingo Classification: Net Technology