This question, Search doesn't work well with URLs, is about searching for posts with links to, and includes that link as plain text in the question (which is then auto-linkified).

Thus, if we search for posts with that link here on Meta, that post should come up.
Actual results vary.

  • naive - - 0 results
  • quotes - "" - 1 result
  • url search - url: - 0 results
  • url w/quotes - url:"" - 2 results
  • url no protocol - - 0 results
  • url no protocol quoted - url:"" - 0 results
  • url w/wildcard - url:* - 0 results
  • url w/wildcard quoted - url:"*" - 3 results

(Some or all of these searches will presumably have their results changed once this post is indexed, but the results should be reproducible with any other link.)

This answer, which also includes that exact text as the title of a link (but not the link target), is never found with any of these searches.

The search FAQ entry doesn't have any tips about these differing behaviors, and the advanced search tips just offers the terse url:"*" with no further explanation of the ins and outs.

I'm sure that there's some rhyme or reason to explain all this, but either the url: search restriction needs to be documented a lot better or the behavior fixed to be more intuitive (or both!).

Google is useless in this instance because real results are overwhelmed by spurious results for question list pages (which is a separate problem).

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I do believe the url: operator requires quotes around the actual URL, so your examples without them shouldn't work. –  animuson Mar 27 '13 at 0:00
@animuson Apparently so, but it'd be nice to have that documented beyond merely being how it's done in the example (which includes a wildcard and might be seen as having the quotes as a guard for it). "Advanced" doesn't have to mean "undocumented". –  blahdiblah Mar 27 '13 at 0:03
Nevermind, I tried a simple thing with and it seems to work on pretty much everything. Can't figure out why this specific URL is acting up. –  animuson Mar 27 '13 at 0:21
@animuson I stumbled upon this naturally trying to see what linked to which displays similar counterintuitive behavior, so it's not just the link to Joel's blog. –  blahdiblah Mar 27 '13 at 0:24
The results you are getting seem correct to me (e.g. an exact match doesn't match a substring, etc.). Quotes are required. –  Sklivvz Mar 27 '13 at 17:35
@Sklivvz Does the naive result seem correct? The post contains that exact text, I search for that text, but get 0 results. I'd expect quoting to be more restrictive in this case, not somehow less. –  blahdiblah Mar 27 '13 at 17:51
@Sklivvz Does it seem correct that this answer is never found at all, despite also containing that exact text? –  blahdiblah Mar 27 '13 at 17:53
@blahdiblah - URL searches are for things that link to that URL, the answer you linked does not link to that URL - only its text matches, which isn't at all what the operator is for. –  Nick Craver Mar 27 '13 at 21:15
@NickCraver That post wasn't found for a plain text search of the url either (and the primary example was only found when the text was quoted). Is link text somehow excluded from the plain text search? –  blahdiblah Mar 27 '13 at 22:25
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Please retry the results, I've made some search tweaks that will help in many cases. The changes are as follows:

  • / and \ are now allowed
  • URL searches are auto-wildcarded front and back

The combination of these should mean URL searches are much more intuitive overall. I'm on the fence of if a URL should be wildcarded if you included quotes already meaning an exact match in most other situations. If that becomes an issue then I'll adjust the behavior to not wildcard that case.

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Thanks, Nick, this all feels much more intuitive. The only one that still seems odd is the quoted plain text search: "" not finding this answer which includes that plain text. Are the quotes in that answer confusing things? Is link title text treated differently somehow? –  blahdiblah Mar 27 '13 at 22:34
@blahdiblah - I'll take a look at that exact post and non-match tomorrow to see what's happening there –  Nick Craver Mar 27 '13 at 22:36
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