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I've noticed that on some sites (say Christianity.SE) when I search for a word that happens to be a tag, it helpfully converts that term into a search for a particular tag. (A search for bible becomes [bible]. If I want to search the text of the posts, I must use +bible or "bible".)

On the other hand, on a site where I have relatively high reputation (Hermeneutics.SE) the search does not convert.

I do have a higher reputation on SO (thanks to the power law), but my search terms do convert there. I guess that it's comparing apples to kumquats since SO has graduated from beta and the other sites I checked haven't. During the beta period, user privileges are granted at lower reputation thresholds.

So is my hypothesis correct? Do search terms convert to tag searches below some reputation threshold? Is this documented somewhere?

Secondly, does this cause any (real) problems? I realized that if I tell a new user to search for something that happens to be a tag, they will get fewer results than I do. Even if I share a link such as, it will be converted to when a new user tries it. My instinct is to say that's a UI and social nightmare. But maybe there are good reasons for this...

(By the way, if I really want to make a link that will work for everyone, I think I should use this form: or

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You could always log out and check for yourself. You don't need an account to search. – Wesley Murch Feb 29 '12 at 20:00
Of course, I found the answer in comment to a Related question after posting this question. Oh well: this one is for posterity. – Jon Ericson Feb 29 '12 at 20:07
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Actually it looks like the magic works a bit differently than I had guessed:

Any individual search terms which map directly to the top 40 tags will be auto-converted to tag searches. So if you enter
c++ entities

it will convert to

[c++] entities

automagically on your behalf.

It seems the new user would get the same results as anyone else who searches at the same point in time.

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