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i noticed in the search that the results differ for questions with tags that are actually synonyms

Am I missing something that i18n is a more popular acronym than l10n? Is this expected behavior or a bug?

It's not a big deal when you know this behavior, but that means I need to search for both "javascript l10n"(12), "javascript localization"(204)

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

That is not how you search for tags. Your search results simply show the questions that have those terms in their texts. If you want to search for tags, type the tag names in square brackets: [i18n].

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