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I just started using Google Chrome, and tried to load Meta by typing "meta.stackoverflow.com" into the URL/search bar. I got as far as "met" before I noticed the following message on the right side of the bar:

Press Tab to search Meta Stack Overflow

I did so, expecting to be taken to the page I would have gotten had I had gone to google.com and plugged in "site:meta.stackoverflow.com reasons for migrating"... but, no. Instead, I got taken to Meta's own search page.

How is this possible? Does SO have some sort of backend widget that lets Google know what its internal search is? Did Google figure it out on its own? Is this normal for Chrome in general? Is there a formal/official name for this feature that I'm the last person on the planet to know about? Sorry about the vague title and question, but if I knew what this was called, I wouldn't really need to ask Meta about it in the first place.

RESOLUTION EDIT:
It seems that the same feature kicks in when entering "site:meta.stackoverflow.com searchTerm1 searchTerm2" into the URL/search bar. Note that this means that searching for tags from Chrome is supported. This feature made possible by SO's and Chrome's mutual support of OpenSearch as described by bdonlan's and Justin's answers.

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Regardless of how Chrome does that, I really hate it for that! –  Pavel Shved Jul 1 '10 at 19:36
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@Pavel, why? I'm not criticizing, just curious. –  Pops Jul 1 '10 at 19:39
    
(@Pavel, also, is Chrome the cause of your gravatar?) –  Pops Jul 1 '10 at 19:47
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@Popu, because when I enter search request to the browser bar, I expect to be taken to Google's website, not SO's. (And if the gravatar was caused by Chrome, that face would be eating its logo.) –  Pavel Shved Jul 2 '10 at 9:18
    
@Pavel: but, regular searches do go to Google. You have to do extra work to use the site-specific search, unless I'm still missing part of the "feature." –  Pops Jul 2 '10 at 14:10
    
@Popu, oh, perhaps the feature was that, when I typed "site:stackoverflow.com some search keywords" it redirected me to StackOverflow search instead of Google's. It was quite a time ago, I don't remember exactly... –  Pavel Shved Jul 2 '10 at 15:08
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@Pavel, that "works"! Gah! You're right, that's going to be a pain in the future. I'm the kind of person who has Firefox set up to autocomplete "en.wikipedia.org/wiki/"; when I type w, so I can just enter a topic and get its article directly.... –  Pops Jul 2 '10 at 15:33

2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

There's a tag in stackoverflow-engine-generated pages telling it to do that:

    <link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml"
        title="Meta Stack Overflow" href="/content/mso/opensearch.xml"> 

The detailed spec can be found at the opensearch homepage.

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You can also install those opensearch documents into the search bars in IE7+ and Firefox. –  Andy E Jul 1 '10 at 21:59
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I don't have any reference to opensearch in my site and Chrome just showed the "Press Tab to search..." message when I started typing the URL on the address bar. This is actually how I found this post. I Was looking for how Chrome figured out that was a search box. Kinda freaked me out. –  jsoldi Aug 2 '11 at 4:27

See this page on the Google Chrome website; it states that it automatically adds the search engines of every site you visit. It also gives options for configuring the engines that are currently added.

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