Google has further reduced the search functionality of the engine. There are two new victims, both of which increasingly limit what searchers can do. It's no longer possible to limit search results to pages that you have already visited, or ones that you haven't. This was a really useful tool, especially when you were working on variations of a search, or you were coming back to a search that you may have started the previous day. It was possible to simply show results from pages that you'd looked at - really helpful when you knew that you'd seen something that was really helpful, but couldn't exactly recall where it was. By using that filter, you had at least a fighting chance to narrow down the options. Alternatively, if you were still hunting for the information that you wanted, it was really helpful to be able to discount all of the pages that you *had* looked at, and just focus on the ones that had not yet been viewed. All in all, a great way to save yourself some time and effort.
A second search function, which wasn't so widely used, but which was still very helpful was that of the reading level. Google had created a method of working out if the language on a page was basic, intermediate or advanced. This was again a really good way of filtering results - if you needed material for a school child for example, filter to basic reading level, or if the users first language wasn't English, it was a way of finding pages that they'd have a fair chance of working through. On the other hand, if you were doing research for a post graduate, knocking out all the basic material would give the user a chance to find material at the academic level that was of interest to them. Not a foolproof method at all, but it was a good way to get a fighting chance at good quality data.
Now both of these have gone. Google has decided that we don't need them, or more likely, that it's not prepared to put any effort in to keep them going. It's moving even further down the route of 'we know what is best for you, so suck it up'. Of course, what it really means is that all of the functionality that used to put Google into a different league is being pared away, and I'm finding it more and more difficult to think of reasons to use it above and beyond any of the other engines out there.
I hope that I'm wrong, but I suspect the next piece of functionality to go will be 'Verbatim'. This is the filter that you can use to tell Google to search for *exactly* what you have written, rather than what it thinks that you want. This costs Google time, effort and money to keep running, and since their interest in search is being reduced at a frightening pace, this is what's going to go next - it's a logical next step on the road towards 'we know what's best for you.' It's going to make the search engine virtually unusable for anything other than simple straightforward queries, and certainly of no value for any serious research. I would seriously suggest to any advanced searchers out there that they start to find themselves another preferred search engine as quickly as possible, because Google just won't be able to cut it for much longer.