Full Text Search refuses to be a black box

Once upon a time, before Google pwn3d internet search, there were several competing definitions for full text search. Altavista more or less gave you results matching the exact strings you gave it, but in a crazy order that made it painful to use. Excite (my favorite back then) used a dictionary to achieve stemming and synonym matches: searching for ‘dogs’ would also match documents that contained ‘canines’ or ‘dog’. Then Google blew them all away, and established a dominant set of expectations for how text search behaves.

I forgot about this, which is why I’m frustrated by the almost ridiculous complexity of the major server-side text search engines available right now. But it makes sense, once you learn what the options are.
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The Mozilla Platform’s Catch-22 Problem

Starting with Netscape 4.5, I’ve used Netscape, then Mozilla, then Thunderbird for email. I have a similar relationship with Firefox. I’ve watched with great hope and been disappointed over the years as Thunderbird bugs that really annoy me just… stay. I think I know why. It’s because Firefox and Thunderbird are built in such a way as to create a catch-22 situation — one that actually discourages new contributors.
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