Updated 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 replaced by Register “BOFH”.
“We're constantly making changes to Google Search - adding new features, tweaking the look and feel, running experiments - all to get you the information you need as quickly and as easily as possible,” said Kelly Fee, Google Search community manager in a Google forum. “This recent change is another step toward simplifying the search experience to get you to the info you want.”
Based on the feedback in Google’s forums, the move is not a popular one. Fee’s statement was found useful by only two readers out of 13, while every reader who commented supported the following user rant shortly afterwards:
“How does requiring us to type two characters instead of one in order to ensure that a key word appears in the search results simplify the search experience? For that matter, how do random and unannounced changes requiring us to change our documentation (and you you're own - which you haven't done) help anyone? If you want to expand the functionality of quotation marks, that's great, but why remove functions that have worked before?”
Oddly, other popular and long-standing search operators, such as OR and the – symbol, are unchanged, leading to speculation by some that the move is to cut down on confusion with the Google+ social networking site.
"We're streamlining the ways you can tell Google to search for the exact keywords you type, whether it's an exact phrase or a single word, by focusing on the functionality of the quotation marks operator," a Google spokesman told The Register in an emailed statement. "So, if in the past you would have searched for [magazine +latina], you should now search for [magazine "latina"] to get the same results." ®