Fans of Linux, Microsoft and Macs used to be able to search for information about those topics on Google using specialized search tools that narrowed the results to a focused set of highly relevant Web sites.
Earlier this week, however, it was discovered that Google has pulled the plug on many such specialized search portals -- including Google.com/linux, Google.com/microsoft, Google.com/mac and Google.com/bsd -- redirecting users to Google.com/webhp instead.
Also eliminated by Google were Google.com/unclesam and USGov.Google.com for government-specific information searches.
'Better Off Using the Search Box'
"We are no longer offering specialized search services at google.com/linux, google.com/microsoft, google.com/bsd, google.com/mac, google.com/about and google.com/unclesam," Google confirmed in a statement provided to Search Engine Roundtable on Monday.
"These services were established many years ago to offer search across a limited index of the Web, which in the past was a better way to find this information. For example, google.com/linux was designed to help people find information from message boards and blogs about the Linux operating system," Google explained.
"Today, search quality has advanced tremendously, and based on our analysis we've found that in most cases you're better off looking for this kind of specialized information using the regular Google search box, for example by typing [linux fedora upgrade]," the company said.
'A Serious Mistake'
The news came as a great surprise to many Google search users, however, as could be seen over the past few days on a Google Web Search forum.
"Google Uncle Sam is a critical search feature," wrote one participant, for example.
"I consider the decision to remove Uncle Sam search a serious mistake and very bad public relations," wrote another.
'I Personally Apologize'
Combined with the lack of advance notice, in fact, users' dismay even prompted an apology from Google.
"I personally apologize for our poor communication regarding the termination of Uncle Sam search," wrote Google Search Product Manager Rishi K. on the search forum. "We should have done a better job communicating this in advance, and I apologize for that. In the future, I'll make sure we find a way to do better."
Google also directed disgruntled users to its Help Center for more ways to restrict searches in topic- and site-specific ways.
Loss of an Advantage
In addition to dealing a blow to users accustomed to relying on these topic-specific search portals, Google's move could also shift an advantage to services like Bing-based search.usa.gov, as one forum commenter pointed out.
Search Engine Land has also noted that vertical search tools may be even more useful and important today than ever before.
I'm especially sorry to see the end of the Linux search tool. Have you used any of the ones that have been eliminated? Will this change affect the way you search? Please sound off in the comments.