Itīs just a little helper for users that donīt know they could put quotation marks around the words. Perhaps by simply reminding people of this option on alltheweb this search is done more frequently - but most people using alltheweb are more search-savvy anyhow.
>why wouldn't they just make this the ordinary search too specific for default, I should think. Searching for shops for widgets you wouldnīt use an exact phrase. Basically more important is what default options Lycos and the other Fast partners are using.
I read somewhere once that only a very small percentage of searches use any advanced features. I think it was in the low single-digits, like 2%. Looking at my stats for a 2-word phrase (travel, general public), I don't think it's even that high.
"...Google seems to give a boost for the exact phrase even if you search without quotes..."
Ive noticed that too, to the extent that I dont use quotes in Google anymore, and in the few times that i use other engines for personal searching tend to forget and just put in the terms without quotes there too. My feeling also is that very few people use quotes.
AltaVista used to give a fairly substantial weighting to exact phrase matches too. I can't tell what they're doing anymore.
Google seems to pay a fair amount of attention to the proximity of the words on a page. Even you don't have exact phrase matches, having the words in your target phrases close together on the page seems to help.
I have observed, though, that Google makes some big distinctions for searches with and without quotes. I've been researching a term that, without quotes, pulls up 1.8 million sites. With quotes, 12,000 sites. I agree that most people don't search with quotes... and am actually wondering whether the phrase, which is a technical term, is worth targeting for those who realize the search without quotes isn't working for them. 2% is discouragingly low....