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back to article Google dumps + from Boolean search tool

Google has quietly dropped the use of the + symbol to link search items, in a move it says will simplify the process of Boolean searching. The + search operator, widely used in searches to confine results to a specific search term, has now been replaced with quotation marks. So, for example, the search Register +BOFH is now …

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Meh

I've been using the quote searches for a while. It seems like it'd be less efficient, but only for searches <2 specific words. It's actually been quite the time-saver for searches for specific chunks of text. I don't see why they couldn't keep both methods, though.

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Searches for specific chunks of text (i.e. phrases) have always worked best using quotes as that's what they were originally for. This change seems to muddy the waters.

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You're missing the distinction. When Google first started one of the things I liked about it was that all the search terms were included by default. Then about a year ago Google decided that they knew what they were searching for better than you did. First it was fairly useful stuff like searching for plural and non plural search terms, searching for UK and US English spellings of words. Then they started including roots of words, you search for playing, you get results for play, and synonyms.

Now Google just drops words from your query if they make the results too limited. When I use + in my searches I'm not trying to find an exact phrase. I just want to see all the pages that contain every one of those words.

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@fuzz : exactly

When they went from doing an AND search to an OR search the + (or "", now) became necessary. If they'd left well-enough alone there would never have been a problem. The early appeal of google was that all terms were included in the search, leading to fewer results. This is how a search engine should work. Randomly making search terms optional is a failure, if a term is optional (ie not specific enough) why would I bother typing it into the search box?

Perhaps they need an "[] I am not a fscking idiot" checkbox on the settings page to revert it to the old behaviour.

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@Fuzz - totally agree

I hate how Google has decided that what I type doesn't mean what I want to see. It works OK for plain text searches for questions. But when it comes to ANY technical search, it's plain stupid.

I've had:

* model numbers dropped so my search becomes simply "user manual" (making the results really pointless)

* BSOD codes ignored so I can learn about different BSOD causes instead.

* "Windows update error 0x1234abcd" (obviously with a real code and no quotes) once turned into both "windows update error" and "error 0x1234abcd" - because maybe I needed to check what Office uses that code for too, and also was having more general issues with Windows Update.

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Alert

@Tim Bates - BING BING BING - you're right!

I had the exact same problem when searching for Windows errors. My solution was obvious - I use Bing to search for Microsoft-related information. It was out of frustration that Google was not returning results that I wanted.

For the past TWO WEEKS I noticed that the + sign didn't force Google to include terms I absolutely needed, but BING does! More and more I've been using Bing because it gives me better results.

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Exactly.. What if I want to include a phrase in my search, but not require it?

Before, if I wanted to include the phrase:

"the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy brown dog"

If I wanted to require the phrase:

+"the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy brown dog"

Now, how do I include but not require the phrase?

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FAIL

This is just silly

Who would want less, simple obvious features?

Google's search has been going down the pan for a while, getting more and more bloated, moving things around for no reason (you have to mouseover some arrows to get a page preview before you can even select "cached"!)

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Happy

Thanks!

That explains it - I'd wondered what had happened to the cached results. I have to think that drunk monkeys have gotten into Google recently, just how does searching for [X "Y" "Z" -B] make more sense than [X +Y +Z -B]?

I guess it's just one of the rules of computing ... everything, eventually, gathers cruft and slides downhill.

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Stop

re: preview page

I think they're trying to make things 'tablet friendly', and in so doing, pissing off everyone else who isn't "hip and trendy".

I own computers with keyboards+mice and netbooks with keyboards+trackpads, I have no intention of getting a tablet.

I wish web developers would STOP FORCING THIS CRAP ON US, not everyone wants this new and 'innovative' way of using webpages even on tablets I would imagine. eBay have done the same recently, testing on random users a new search layout which brings up a preview when you click the search plane, which is atrocious to use and look at on any interface system.

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When Google was becoming popular a decade or so ago, one of the things that helped them stand out from many other sites was that they were using a clean, simple interface. Lately though, they've been adding all these dynamic features which just convolute the search process. Having search suggestions pop up while typing is a reasonably useful feature, but having the entire page repeatedly update to show the suggested results while typing is cumbersome and distracting. Clear the search field, and you get a blank page until you type something new. The same goes for having to load a preview image of a site to see links to cached and similar page links. Often, the preview images will pop up when just scrolling through the results. Having the search engine constantly assuming that I mistyped one search term in place of another, and sending me to the results for that other term is not particularly helpful either. Sometimes they don't even tell you that they replaced a word, but you see another similarly-spelled word highlighted in the results instead of what you typed, and eventually a small notice at the bottom of the results letting you know that they decided you really wanted to search for 'wood' when you typed 'woof'. Then, they customize results based on past searches, so your results for a particular search may be quite different from someone else's, or from one day to the next.

For years, Google focused on providing search results in a simple, direct manner, and it worked well for them, as they've more or less become 'the' Internet search engine. Now though, they seem more interested in keeping up with the gimmicks of competitors who barely even compete against them, and in managing every aspect of one's Internet experience.

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FAIL

And the asymmetry? What a horrible horrible choice.

Nobody seems to object to the illogic of it all: + is a symmetric operator, in logic and maths of course --- [a + b] equals [b + a]. "" isn't even a known operator in those (quite familiar: logic-->computer language notations, maths-->GCSEs) fields, up to now used to define units that would otherwise be broken.

It makes no sense whatsoever that [a "b"] equals [b "a"] (and certainly ["a b"] doesn't equal ["b a"]). I thought Google was stuffed with mathsy geeks.

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Go

Tip regarding Google unFeatures

Keep them at bay with NoScript!

I don't see any of that annoying crap...

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Joke

"I own computers with keyboards+mice and netbooks with keyboards+trackpads, I have no intention of getting a tablet."

Don't you mean you own computers with "keyboards" "mice"?

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FAIL

+FAIL

That is all.

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Big Brother

Or even ...

+ungood

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Big Brother

@Christoph

Surely that's ++ungood :-)

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zb

Did you mean "ungood"

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Anonymous Coward

Dammit I use this all the time.

I will continue to use it as well, fuck the results

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Coffee/keyboard

Thanks for that.

Now for another +coffee to replace the one I spilled.

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I FEAR CHANGE!!

Yep - me too.

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FAIL

As long...

as I can use the - (Minus Sign), to weed out the garbage results I'm more or less ok with this.

personally though I'm with the neigh sayers on this One though.

Why replace an otherwise decently working standard, and replace it for something that expends more energy requiring that I use an additional keystroke, where as before I didn't have to.

As for Google+ I think Google are underestimating their Users, after all Google pretty much is the web (or at least the search provider of choice).

Shame that Altavista, Yahoo, and Co. seemed to have fallen by the wayside though.

I wonder if anyone could out Google in the Search Biz, now that Google have seemed to move onto selling Ads, and Social Media services.

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Happy

Coming soon

Next month, to exclude search elements you'll need to stop using the - sign and start quoting them with accents so you be searching for [this "plus this" `but not this`]

You KNOW it makes sense

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Happy

Congrats + "Well done sir" -"ROTFLMAO" -"ROFLOCOPTER" -"script-kiddie"

Waiddaminit, wat?

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Yes, I like my minus sign

Search: " web dev information I'm looking for" -buy -purchase -order -join -members -subscribe -vote -experts-exchange...

Yep, the only way to actually find any useful information and avoid all the sharks and scammers trying to sell you shit flooding the first five pages of results with their SEO fuckery.

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Anonymous Coward

The - (not operator) hasn't worked properly in Google for a couple years now. Google's results still include things that have the (often blatently obvious) term included in them. Though it does seem to cut down on some of the crap at least.

Not that the quotes work any better. Google loves to strip them off and search for the individual words anywhere in the document.

I too am starting to wish for a real competitor to Google. I think I might just give Bing another try. Even Scroogle can't save Google when they screw up their search engine.

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Anonymous Coward

@Michael Habel

"Neigh sayers"? You mean horses?

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Boffin

I've always thought...

... that a 'front page only' search engine would be pretty cool.

All it indexes is the text and links on your main page (i.e. the first one that appears when you go to a domain on it's own). I think this would make 90% of common searches SO much more accurate and useful.

Thoughts?

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@Jaruzel: How would a "front page only" search engine be of any use at all? How many sites do you know of that link to every single page on their site from the homepage, using relevant anchor text that would match all possible combinations of words that a user might use to search for that information?

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Coat

I think it's cos this one's produced so many long faces......

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Happy

Accents?

"Pluss Ziz" AND 'Not Dat' ?

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Joke

@Michael

"I'm with the neigh sayers"

You agree with horses or you currently reside in a stable?

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Happy

neigh sayers ?

...Stop horsing around!

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Devil

Re: As long...

"I wonder if anyone could out Google in the Search Biz, now that Google have seemed to move onto selling Ads, and Social Media services."

----------------------------------------

Yeah really! How "cuil" would that be, right?

Seriously though, no joke that I could ever come up with could ever top the joke that this so-called "Google Killer" company was:

"Ex-Googlers reinvent web search"

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/29/cuil_launch/

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There's a reason for that...

"Shame that Altavista, Yahoo, and Co. seemed to have fallen by the wayside though..."

There's a reason for that. When Google first came along, it was the only search engine site that didn't require a whole separate page full of explanations of how to use the S00per Seekrit Magic Language to narrow down your search results. All I had to do with Google was go to Advanced Search, type in an exact phrase with maybe one or two related words, and bingo, a nice fistful of relevant search results.

In spite of how evil and creepy they've become, Google's search still beats the others by a mile/km despite the bloat. I totally agree with the commenter who mentioned his hope that they don't eliminate the minus sign, which I use often for filtering out all the crap.

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Coat

Or do you mean

Horse whisperers?

Mine's the one with the saddlebags

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lateral move at best

For a long time you didn't need a + at all with Google, but now their search is so smart that they drop off important key words if they'd restrict your search too much, and you end up with generic crap. But to be fair, if you needed to use the +, there's a good chance you also needed to quote your term, to stop Google autocorrecting it to something unrelated.

So what they've done is A) Break search so you needed to +"foo" everything, and then B) 'made it more efficient' by allowing you to just "foo" your search terms.

I got so fed up with their search "intelligence" and the tendency to just find massive quantities of duplicate spam sites that I switched to *cringe* bing last week. It's at least 3% not as horrific to use as Google.

And yet again, I wish the web could go back to 2002 or so, when it was more or less a document repository, and the advertisers hadn't quite figured it out yet.

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Boffin

@Nexox Enigma

I tried to use Bing for all my searches some time ago, and found it even less efficient. Google standards for searching went down, and Bing took an example?

One point to make: if Google is less efficient than let's say 2 years ago, we got to take into account that the number of data also greatly increased (both webpages and datatypes that Google now supports)

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@ petur

More data? You mean crap like bigresource which might be tolerable if it listed one and had a "More like this" option, but no, it's a screenful of rubbish...

And as others have been saying, stop looking for word roots. If I'm looking for "playing hanafuda", trust me that the results for "play hanafuda" are rather less relevant. Of course, maybe the people behind the search engine are as dumb as they think the users are? I actually want *fewer* PRECISE results, not a greater number of sort-of-maybe results. Is that too much to ask?

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i tried yahoo and bing

and found that I didn't know how to find things, or their indexes sucked (i dont know which), so I went back to Google.

I start every search with an expletive and "" every term. the expletive is to prevent google from reloading the ENTIRE page every time I type a letter, and the "" are to prevent google from choosing alternate forms (singular, plural, synonmys, etc).

I bet if the advertiising groups were separated (using a machete if necessary) from the search group, things would get better for search.

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Anonymous Coward

Here's an idea: why doesn't The Register write an article on alternatives to google? There must some half decent search engines out there...

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Have you tried

dogpile.com?

It takes results from Google, Yahoo and Bing.

V.

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I'd read that

Not a bad idea for an article.

It's funny how things have come full circle. Originally, there were many, including directory based ones, and none were clear winners, although Yahoo! and Altavista were pretty damn popular. (Especially since the later could be accessed easily: av.com)

Eventually, Google stood out and nobody has used anything else for years, apart from the odd person using MSN or Bing by accident because it was set as the default in IE. Now the idea of alternatives seems interesting.

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noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

that's all I have to say about that.

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Facepalm

Oh great.

dropping the + for ""? Great idea. It's not like the "" was already used for something else, such as, erm, searching for a verbatim expression. And it's not like the change doubles the number of keystrokes. Or is very unintuitive. Or all of the above.

On second thought it won't matter terribly much, as carefully-crafted search strings are completely useless these days. No matter what you type, Google returns what some clever algorithm has decided you were looking for, as opposed to what you actually asked for. Certainly useful for 99% of the world 99% of the time, but quite annoying when you actually do know what you are doing.

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Happy

and for a while too

Looking back at it, I have to think that Google search results have been going downhill for a while. It used to be that a complex search would throw something up on the first page but I'm finding that for non-intuitive searches it's usually on page two these days.

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FAIL

define:failure

They seem to have dropped the "define:" tag too. Using "define:failure" used to present the definitions of the word "failure". Now it doesn't. It just presents the same results as for "failure" alone.

My choice of example above might tell you what I think of _this_ change.

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define: still works for me.

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Still works for me too.

They have, however, dropped support for the shorter "def:" which used to work just as well, I had to retrain my brain to use "define:" a few months back.

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Google Defaults are Wrong

If I search for a term it should be the default that the returned pages have the terms on them. I don't think that's particularly unreasonable and I've found over the last six months or so that I'm entering more and more searches with quotes to the point where they'll soon be the majority.

Why is Google getting WORSE as a search engine? Surely it should be getting better.

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