Google Hummingbird has brought significant changes to the web, for Google search engine users as well as webmasters. The impact seems more likely to affect smaller e-commerce merchants than large companies with brand name recognition and large budgets to pay for multiple advertising channels.
Hummingbird is NOT an update comparable to Penguin or Panda. Hummingbird is a major change to Google search.
The first change that caught my attention was encryption. All Google search queries are now encrypted, i.e. it is no longer optional to connect to Google search by
https instead of
http. SSL makes Google search safer, in a general sort of way.
Keyword data is not as accessible as it was prior to Hummingbird. Google Keyword Tool has been replaced by Keyword Planner. Now, certain archival keyword data can only be accessed by Google AdWords customers. Google Analytics is free; Google AdWords is not.
Functionality such as broad match is no longer available.