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Sunday, March 6, 2005

Google Wildcard Broken

Rob Skelton alerted me Google’s Wildcard operator (the Asterisk “*” character) is showing some strange results as of lately. Before, when you would enter e.g. “god * america”, the result snippets would contain “god bless america” and similar in bold. Now, the wildcard is simply ignored and you get results like “God, America and classic cars” or “Bless God America”.

However, the omission of the wildcard doesn’t always happen. Try enter “we’re the * in america” into, and the wildcard will be replaced by a bold “kids”. To see the glitch again, enter “we’re the * in *”, and the snippets will contain “We’re the In group” and similar, ignoring your wildcard.

If this new behavior is not a bug but a feature, then it would break many tools using the Google API, and it would also make many search approaches unusable.

Update: As Andreas notes, the Google API did not adopt this “feature” yet – wildcards still work here. You can see this by going to, which uses Google Web Services, and entering “god * america”... the phrase “God bless America” will be in the result snippets, and it will be bold.


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