|This message was posted to the English Village Pump Technical, discovery-l and wikitech-l making lists on Friday, February 26th, 2016|
Help us make wiki search auto completion better!
Searching for articles is getting a much needed boost in intelligence. When searching for an article on any Wikimedia project, a list of possible matches appear as you type. This incremental search 'completion suggester' helps narrow down possible results for your search query. Currently the completion suggester is very literal - mistype a word and you won't see any suggestions. The Discovery team has an update that will make the search better at detecting typos and spelling mistakes. The list of suggestions is also tends to be more accurate and relevant to the original search query. You can see the improvement for yourself at a beta feature. The plan is to begin rolling out this update in the coming month.
This improvement will impact all Wikimedia sites (with the exception of Wikidata). With the initial rollout, there will be a few limitations. For technical reasons, the completion suggester will only affect articles in the mainspace, not other pages like policy or user pages. Those searches will continue to use the existing incremental search. We're hoping to expand the scope of the completion suggester to include other pages in the future, but this will not be a part of the initial release.
Why are we making this change? The success of our A/B tests on the completion suggester show a reduction in users who find zero results when searching. We also have a fairly large number of Wikimedians (nearly 19,000 editors since December 2015) using the beta feature, and we've received positive feedback on the feature so far. The completion suggester has the potential of lessening the need for redirects based on spelling mistakes as well.
The goal is to bring these updates to the default search across all Wikimedia projects in the coming month. This change will affect the completion suggester in the main search box on desktop, mobile apps, adding links in VisualEditor, and the search box on the Wikimedia Portal.
Here are two animations showing the completion suggester before and after (using a misspelling of "Abendessen", with a missing "s").
Since December 2015, nearly 19,000 editors have already opted into the completion suggester beta feature. We encourage you to try it out and share your feedback on the Completion Suggester discussion page.
If you'd like to read a little more about the work of the Discovery Department and other improvements to search, please check out the Wikimedia blog or read about CirrusSearch, the Mediawiki Extension that powers our search.