The address bar recently received a feature to highlight typed in search keywords. This makes it easier to recognize those searches on a glance (although there are still design considerations, Bug 1506316). The original feature contained some bugs, which were addressed in Bug 1504552 amongst others. With the fix for this bug (https://hg.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/rev/e39e7ada574f), only @-entries are continued to be highlighted, simple keywords aren't. This seems to be by design, as it's part of a testcase ("Aliases that don't start with @ shouldn't be highlighted."; function nonAtMarkAlias()). I'd like to argue that highlighting these keywords is actually the better alternative and this should be re-enabled.
What's the reason? Our UX team surely has valid reasons based on their knowledge and experience, and yes, this was made totally by design.
AFAIK there is no difference in behavior when using @searchengine or the corresponding shortcut. Both lead to the same result: a search on the configured search engine. Therefore there shouldn't be a difference in the UI as well, both should be highlighted. This is also the behavior that got released to stable in the first place. This change here now (although intentional; that's why this is a new bug, not a reopen) wasn't explained anywhere. It's just the comment in code. So, the UX team might have a reason, but it would be a good idea to share it as well. Because I do not see the point.
Verdi can probably give you a better answer than me. From a technical point of view, what was released was a bug.
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