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Google no longer accepts the + operator. If I attempt to use the + operator, I get the following message:

The + operator has been replaced.

To search for an exact word or phrase, use double quotation marks: <query>

Why has Google replaced the + operator, now requiring double quotes to search for an exact word or phrase instead?

Related, but not a duplicate: Forced words in Google search query are being ignored, plus no longer working as explicit inclusion

Edit: Google now silently ignores the +, producing results that are no different than without the +. A warning is no longer issued.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Perhaps this is because when linking to Google+ members the + is a prefix to the member name.

See, e.g, Google Kills Its Other Plus, and How to Bring It Back on Wired:

Google wouldn’t disclose exactly why they phased it out, though it seems obvious that they’re paving the way for Google+ profile searches. When Google+ launched, instead of adopting Twitter’s @reply syntax, they coined their own format for mentioning people — adding a plus to the beginning of a name — triggering the future conflict with the + operator.

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Google hasn't said, but the speculation amongst the Technorati is that it's related to Google+. Now that they've got The Plus and they're integrating it everywhere, they're likely reserving it for some specialized search related to Google+.

What that might be? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Why? The + operator is a prefix operator, and the "+" in Google+ is postfix. –  DragonLord Oct 27 '11 at 3:19
    
+1 everything as an upvote as well. You can't Google that. –  Eight Days of Malaise Oct 27 '11 at 3:44
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When linking to Google+ members the + is a prefix to the member name –  Itamar Oct 27 '11 at 7:53
    
@Itamar, consider posting your comment as an answer. –  DragonLord Oct 27 '11 at 12:05
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Hi everyone,

We've made the ways you can tell Google exactly what you want more consistent by expanding the functionality of the quotation marks operator. In addition to using this operator to search for an exact phrase, you can now add quotation marks around a single word to tell Google to match that word precisely. So, if in the past you would have searched for [magazine +latina], you should now search for [magazine "latina"].

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. This recent change is another step toward simplifying the search experience to get you to the info you want.

Cheers,
Kelly

Kelly F
Google Employee
Search Community Manager
10/22/11

From Google support forums.

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This should be the accepted answer. –  Al E. Mar 21 '12 at 13:38
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