So, have they changed or is my memory just mixing different things up? I was pretty confident that you can use a “?” as a single wildcard instead of “*” which could fill in multiple characters.
For some reason Google does not make its help pages very easy to find, but try here: http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=136861
It looks to me as though * will work as you say, but ? will not. I am not sure that that is a change, though. The ? works as a single character wildcard for some programs, and may have been used (I can’t remember now) by some of the old search engines Altavista maybe?), but I don’t recall ever hearing of it being used by Google.
I don’t recall Google ever using “?”
Google wildcards will only work for whole words not for parts of words.
I used to use Alta Vista for things like Mich* which would give you all words starting with MICH
Or You could use M*CH which would give you MICH or MACH or MBCH
But Google will only use * for whole words and