How does search on AMO work?


This is documenting our current state of how search is implemented in addons-server. We will be using this to plan future improvements so please note that we are aware that the process written below is not perfect and has bugs here and there.

Please see for more planning.

General structure

Our Elasticsearch cluster contains Add-ons (addons index) and statistics data. The purpose of that document is to describe the add-ons part only though. We store two kinds of data for add-ons: indexed fields that are used for search purposes, and non-indexed fields that are meant to be returned (often as-is with no transformations) by the search API (allowing us to return search results data without hitting the database). The latter is not relevant to this document.

Our search can be reached either via the API through /api/v4/addons/search/ or /api/v4/addons/autocomplete/ which are used by our addons-frontend as well as via our legacy pages (which are going away and off-topic here).


The key fields we search against are name, summary and description. Because all can be translated, we index twice: - Once with the translation in the language-specific analyzer if supported, under {field}_l10n_{analyzer} - Once with the translation in the default locale of the add-on, under {field}, analyzed with just the snowball analyzer for description and summary, and a custom analyzer for name that applies the following filters: standard, word_delimiter (a custom version with preserve_original set to true), lowercase, stop, and dictionary_decompounder (with a specific word list) and unique.

In addition, for the name, both fields also contains a subfield called raw that holds a non-analyzed variant for exact matches in the corresponding language (stored as a keyword, with a lowercase normalizer). We also have a name.trigram variant for the field in the default language, which is using a custom analyzer that depends on a ngram tokenizer (with min_gram=3, max_gram=3 and token_chars=["letter", "digit"])

Flow of a search query through AMO

Let’s assume we search on addons-frontend (not legacy) the search query hits the API and gets handled by AddonSearchView, which directly queries ElasticSearch and doesn’t involve the database at all.

There are a few filters that are described in the /api/v4/addons/search/ docs but most of them are not very relevant for raw search queries. Examples are filters by guid, platform, category, add-on type or appversion (application version compatibility). Those filters are applied using a filter clause and shouldn’t affect scoring.

Much more relevant for raw add-on searches (and this is primarily used when you use the search on the frontend) is SearchQueryFilter.

It composes various rules to define a more or less usable ranking:

Primary rules

These are the ones using the strongest boosts, so they are only applied to the add-on name.

Applied rules (merged via should):

  1. A dis_max query with term matches on name_l10n_{analyzer}.raw and name.raw if the language of the request matches a known language-specific analyzer, or just a term query on name.raw (boost=100.0) otherwise - our attempt to implement exact matches
  2. If we have a matching language-specific analyzer, we add a match query to name_l10n_{analyzer} (boost=5.0, operator=and)
  3. A phrase match on name that allows swapped terms (boost=8.0, slop=1)
  4. A match on name, using the standard text analyzer (boost=6.0, analyzer=standard, operator=and)
  5. A prefix match on name (boost=3.0)
  6. If a query is < 20 characters long, a dis_max query (boost=4.0) composed of a fuzzy match on name (boost=4.0, prefix_length=2, fuzziness=AUTO, minimum_should_match=2<2 3<-25%) and a match query on name.trigram, with a minimum_should_match=66% to avoid noise.

Secondary rules

These are the ones using the weakest boosts, they are applied to fields containing more text like description, summary and tags.

Applied rules (merged via should):

  1. Look for matches inside the summary (boost=3.0, operator=and)
  2. Look for matches inside the description (boost=2.0, operator=and)

If the language of the request matches a known language-specific analyzer, those are made using a multi_match query using summary or description and the corresponding {field}_l10n_{analyzer}, similar to how exact name matches are performed above, in order to support potential translations.

Rescoring rules

On top of the two sets of rules above, a rescore query is applied with a window_size of 10. In production, we have 5 shards, so that should re-adjust the score of the top 50 results returned only. The rules used for rescoring are the same used in the secondary rules above, with just one difference: it’s using match_phrase instead of match, with a slop of 10.

General query flow:

  1. Fetch current translation
  2. Fetch locale specific analyzer (List of analyzers)
  3. Merge primary and secondary should rules
  4. Create a function_score query that uses a field_value_factor function on average_daily_users with a log2p modifier, as well as a 4.0 weight if the add-on is public & non-experimental.
  5. Add the rescore query to the mix