Searching for user:something (either a valid, or a non-existent user) returns all posts on SO.

The story

I stumbled across a question where the OP's username was greyed out:


Curious as to if this was a bot or a banned user, or something else, I searched Meta for "Gnome"... but I didn't find anything relevant.

My side-question is: who's Gnome?

After that though, I searched Main for user:gnome

Yes, yes, I know, bad search syntax... Still, it matches ALL posts on the site:

From Data Explorer:


From the search query:



  • 1
    I think he has deleted his profile. That's why it showing grayed username with no profile link.
    – Raynold
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 4:32
  • Nothing to do with user:gnome in search. You may be interested in user:skeet?
    – Himanshu
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 4:36
  • 2
    @hims056 That's my point. I was just explaining how I'd got there. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 4:36
  • I suggest that you change your title, and/or the way your post is presented. It is quite confusing on first read (since people would just skim through your post).
    – nhahtdh
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 7:51
  • 6
    The same thing is true for is:bacon, isaccepted:possibly, and closed:unjustly, i.e. any invalid search operator.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 8:11
  • 1
    Well I also think this is a bug, the engine should return 0 results for invalid search terms. I wasted some time looking for what I searched in totally irrelevant results before I figured out what was going on...
    – spyk
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


As for "Gnome" it was a long time member who asked (for his own private reasons) to delete his account.

Using the magic of Wayback Machine Internet Archive, we can still see his actual display name before he changed it at some later point. See here:

  • And you can see their old user id. Searching for user:54262 correctly returns zero results. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 8:34
  • @Martin true, the user account has been deleted. However the wayback machine archived the old profile page as well. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 8:42

When the username is greyed out, it means one of the following:

  • The user has an account on another SE site and the post was migrated to a site where they don't have an account
  • The user requested deletion of their account (generally this shows a greyed out userXYZ, but this seems to be a special case)

Also, User seaching the Data Explorer will give you a list of users who have an account on data.SE. You have to write a SQL query (Select * from users where DisplayName='Gnome') and run it (though in this case the account probably was deleted a long time ago and won't be on data.SE).

  • 5
    I think you've missed the thrust of the question: Danny is asking why this query causes the search engine to return every single question and every single answer from the database. "Who's Gnome?" is just a side question.
    – 410 gone
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 7:16
  • The post is not migrated, so the user is probably deleted. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 7:18
  • @ToonKrijthe: Yep, though generally deleted users are have their usernames replaced with userXYZ Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 7:27

who's Gnome?

As his username displayed as grayed style and there is no link of his profile, I suspect that particular user has deleted his/her profile.

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