An algorithm (ăl’gə-rĭTH’əm) is a procedure defined to solve a problem, usually structured in steps. The algorithm takes an input, carries the steps and then produces an output. Google, for instance, uses an algorithm to find the most relevant web pages on the Internet whenever your perform a search query.
Algorithms sound scary, of interest only to dome-headed mathematicians. In fact they have become the instruction manuals for a host of routine consumer transactions. Browse for a book on Amazon.com and algorithms generate recommendations for other titles to buy. Buy a copy and they help a logistics firm to decide on the best delivery route. (The Economist)
The project, which was started by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, consists of four components, the indexing of the Web, developing a search engine application, an algorithm, and using people to help filter sites and rank results. (PC World)