Algorithm [ˈælgərIðəm]: A precise sequence of actions, used to programmatically solve problems. The results of your Google searches, your Spotify recommendations or the posts that are presented to you on your Facebook feed: all those are generated by algorithms.
Be it a cooking recipe or your car’s manual, humans do follow algorithm-like instructions many times in their daily lives, too. However, a computer algorithm has to be designed in an even more precise way, as the computer only does exactly what it is told to do.
To find an algorithmic solution to a problem, you usually split up the problem in small parts. Say, a flight search engine wants to display all flights that match their customers query. First, they will have to enquire the flights from all different airlines, then they have to order them appropriately and finally they have to show the results to their customer. As the steps become smaller, the tasks become more abstract. And most often, all little steps have been done by someone else before. There is a huge set of algorithms to draw from: from sorting a set of objects to finding the shortest way from A to B. Those algorithms are very versatile and can be used to solve subproblems in many different settings.Back to Dictionary