The macron is used in transliterating Japanese, and many other languages have specific character sets that may not be handled appropriately by database and search engine software, much of which was designed with Anglo-Saxon English in mind.

Information retrieval researchers have investigated how different languages are treated by Web search engines such as Google: for example Greek (Efthimiadis, Malevris, Kousaridas, Lepeniotou, & Loutas, 2009), Russian, French, Hungarian and Hebrew (Bar-Ilan & Gutman, 2005), Chinese (Moukdad & Cui, 2005), Turkish (Kesen, Şenol, & Yanar, 2008), Arabic (Hammo, 2009), and Hungarian (Tóth, 2006).

We may get an invitation from our whānau to a hāngi, or comment on the increased numbers of tūī in our garden.

In Te Reo, a macron is used to indicate a long vowel.

Although keyboard add-ons are available to assist us, I suspect most of us ignore this refinement, and so it is more likely that we will be getting an invitation to join our whanau at a hangi, and comment on the increased numbers of tui.

So what happens when we search for Te Reo terms containing macrons?

In the lead up to the election, an obvious search example was to search for the website of the Māori Party.

To my surprise, while the non macronised “Maori party” brought the official party website to the top of Google’s hit list, the macronised “Māori Party” search failed to find the party’s website in the first screen of results.A lack of results for the maconised form mans that the user is at least aware that there is a problem, rather than assuming that a comprehensive search has been done.The lesson for searchers here is not to assume that terms with macronised vowels will achieve the same result whether or not the macron is used – it’s worth checking, and trying both forms if it appears that the search engine discriminates between the forms.However a number of similar searches confirmed that Google gives different results for Te Reo terms, depending on whether or not macrons are used.The problem is that over the years a number of approaches have been taken to representing macronised vowels on the Web, particularly in pre-Unicode times when the macron-less ASCII character set was all that was available.The DSpace implementation at Canterbury University produces no results for “māori”, but many hits for “maori”.