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The global network search at stackexchange.com uses Google search (though it doesn't show that on the homepage).

Since Google has dropped the plus character for indicating required search terms, the operators on regular sites and the global site no longer match.

For example:

As a possible workaround for Google's change, is there any chance that SE could replace +term with "term" before submitting it to Google?

(I'd rather not see SE drop support for the + as well...!)

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When I use + on google.com, it is silently dropped, instead of displaying no results at all. Strange that it behaves differently on SE. –  CodesInChaos Mar 25 '12 at 13:27
    
Indeed, silently dropped on Google, but apparently not when limiting to a site. Like it's not silently dropping it for me when searching for site:superuser.com multi user +vpn +windows. (But even then it's automatically showing the results without punctuation, while also referring me to some help.) –  Arjan Mar 25 '12 at 13:54
    
(Hmmm, only 17 results when "silently dropping" it. So: not really dropping it? When using quotes, far more results...) –  Arjan Mar 25 '12 at 13:58

1 Answer 1

I would prefer the search box to obey the rules of whatever engine it is using. Even if that engine makes weird suboptimal decisions to drop the + operator.

This would mean the search box is more predictable - I know it's obeying the rules, and I don't have to think about whether the latest change by the search engine has been patched by SE.

But, whatever happens, I think it's important to give a link to correct information about what your search box requires.

As an aside, Stack Exchange is an example of a group of people who are most affected by the dropping of the plus operator. SE users are the few users who would have used this feature correctly. Google has said that only 0.5% of searches used the plus operator and two thirds of the time it was used wrong. (Check my math, but that's 3 in 600 using it, 2 of those 3 wrong and only 1 in 600 using it correctly.) Here's a link to a Google Blog post about dropping the plus operator, changing to "verbatim search", with the numbers.

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How did you get to this question...? As for "obey the rules of whatever engine it is using" I'd say: as SE is not making clear what non-SE engine it's using, I'd simply expect it to confirm to its own SE search engine grammar. –  Arjan Jun 20 '13 at 21:36
    
@Arjan it has always been google on se.com...not that there's a secret whole-network search URL on top of elastic I need to work on when time allows or anything... –  Nick Craver Jun 21 '13 at 11:11

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