I searched for user: accidentally and I got these results with 17 million results:

Is there some bug here?

Or is this a weird means to query all questions on Stack Overflow?

  • 4
    This is not a bug. You only searched for all posts by any user. Nov 19, 2013 at 22:37
  • Shouldn't that be user:*?
    – qwertynl
    Nov 19, 2013 at 22:38
  • 2
    Depends. user: actually takes a numeric user id and nothing else (search for user:foo or user:qwertynl and see what happens). The search engine apparently ignores non-numeric (including empty) input and resolves the query into a full scan. Nov 19, 2013 at 22:45
  • 5
    Need a "status-undefined" tag for these. If you screw up the search operator syntax, I don't know why you would expect it to work since "proper behavior" is only defined for proper usage of the operators.
    – Shog9
    Nov 19, 2013 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


This is by design.

Your query matched every post that was made by a user. Very similar to searching with an empty string.

  • I repeat my comment from above: Shouldn't that be user:*?
    – qwertynl
    Nov 19, 2013 at 22:39
  • @qwertynl - It used empty string. And every post's user searched contained at least one empty string.
    – Travis J
    Nov 19, 2013 at 22:39
  • @TravisJ except that user:12 doesn't match user:12345, so why should user: match all users? Nov 19, 2013 at 23:02
  • @Manishearth: In either case, the search term is not especially meaningful.
    – user102937
    Nov 19, 2013 at 23:04
  • @RobertHarvey Of course, just saying that it's a misportrayal of the engine. Not important anyway. Nov 19, 2013 at 23:07
  • @Manishearth - You are correct that if it were a partial match then 12 would return as part of 12345.It must be some sort of default return all then? If you search for "" then you can see the same millions of matches.I wasn't trying to mis-portrait the engine, and my point of containing was conjecture.By observation it seemed that the empty string triggered the large response and so I made that connection. I will say that user:travis also returns all results. Perhaps when the user is not an int it falls back to string matching or just returns bulk.
    – Travis J
    Nov 19, 2013 at 23:13

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