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Search.syntax.changes "since when and why?"  (View post)

Ianf [PersonRank 10]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
14 years ago4,064 views

It used to be that searching Google for, say, compound keywords such as

Hypertext.development iphone

(ie. two words bound into a phrase by presence of an interpunction symbol binding them into a single string of letters followed by a separate keyword) was functionally equivalent to

"Hypertext development" iphone

(implied, by-default AND in both cases).

Apparently it is no more, only I only realized it just now. Example:

(gives about 91,000 results; while)

(gives about 23 results, which is the more correct answer)

I wonder what made Google change the syntax.... I realize they treat "+", "-", """ [=quote] and "(", ")" [=bracket] symbols as SPECIAL CASES, but why then effectively nullify the presence of all the others rather than keep their initial "glue-within-strings" functionality?

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

The dots are working for me again today, although they were failing yesterday.

It's a pity. I prefer using dots between words rather than doublequotes because it's faster to type.

Above 2 comments were made in the forum before this was blogged, [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

I suppose that I might point out here that those *bloggers* looking for *complete* identification (to the point that you can type their blogging names into a browser and get at worst a request for "http: //" prefix and possibly the browser will simply take the typer into the blogger's universe with no question) *LOVE* the new Google search syntax.

I'm --- look me up on the net

The above line makes a great business card, don't you think?

[signature removed]

Ianf [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

?What? "bloggers"? [personal attack removed] more like it. No-one engaging in egosurfing to such a degree can be anything but, if of merely "intellectual [personal attack removed]" type (some "comfort").

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

The search behaviour has changed in other ways too. A phrase search no longer matches across paragraph boundaries. For example, until yesterday the following search would have matched the text on the first post of this page:

"such as hypertext"

Ianf [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Roger, you sure this syntactical change is of such recent origins as "yesterday"? I think I came across it earlier still, weeks if not months back, but then it kept reverting to old behavior and I sort-of started doubting my recollection. I realize Google wants to constantly evolve/ narrow/ refine/ enhance its bread-and-butter product, and I wouldn't mind the changes PROVIDED they announced it up front, documented in Help section (which I scanned for changes prior to raising it here), rather than sneaking them upon ourselves sort-of behind our backs, as if they expected me[*] not to notice....

[^*] me and umpteen number compugeeks, though I can only speak for myself.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Ianf, I can't guarantee that this change happened only yesterday, but it certainly wasn't more than a few months ago. I can remember encountering matches across paragraphs quite recently.

You suggested that Google should document this in their "Help" section, but I don't think this is practical. Their algorithms are getting so complex that they would be hard to document clearly and concisely.

I can see what Google is aiming for: the idea that you should just say what you want and leave the algorithms to Google, but if you don't understand what's going on "behind the scenes" then Google's behavior can seem quite non-deterministic at times.

Five Underscores [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

Google should (and I suspect, will) allow at least one character to serve as a word-linking substitute for the double-quote functionality. This change has got to be just as annoying for Googlers as for us. I vote for the dash because (at least in English) it basically already serves this function.

Then if you really want to find instances where there is a real dash in the search term as it appears on the actual searched-for web page, you can use double-quotes:


Michael Martinez [PersonRank 5]

14 years ago #

Hyphenated queries are still being differentiated from non-hyphenated queries.

Amski [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

I enjoyed Matt Cutts' explanation, very enlightening. We decided to make these changes "as part of looking at improving queries", but we're not telling you why we made them.

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