Google News is getting a sense of the past to balance out its relentless focus on the present.
Google Inc. has added the ability to search through more than 200 years of historical newspaper archives alongside the latest contemporary information now available on Google News, the market-leading web search firm said on Tuesday.
"The goal of the service is to allow users to explore history as it unfolded," said Anurag Acharya, a top Google engineer who helped develop the news archive search.
"Users can see how viewpoints changed over time for events, for ideas and for people," said Acharya, who also built the Google Scholar service for academic researchers and once was a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Archive Search instantly generates a timeline of stories on a particular subject over the years, allowing web surfers to target particular dates, or to observe how coverage of an issue has evolved over time.
As examples, he cited the 1969 Apollo moon landing or events with long histories such as the Palestinian conflict.
Archival search adds historical and chronological dimensions to Google News, which since it first was launched in 2002, has allowed people to use keywords to search for the latest news from recent weeks in thousands of publications.
Starting immediately, users of Google News will find a News Archive Search link as an alternative to searching the wider Web or zeroing in on breaking news. The service is offered in U.S. English only, initially.
News articles in a number of other languages can also be uncovered, including Spanish.
Users who are purely interested in historical comparisons can go straight into the archival search feature at http://news.google.com/archivesearch/. When Google users search for certain terms on general Google search, historical links may also appear as part of Google's standard search results.
Archival news links are clustered around themes and according to date in chronological order as far back as digital news sources exist -- decades or even several centuries. Users may choose to search the archives of specific publications.
For now, it has no plans to embed advertising links alongside archive search results, although sites with historical news may choose to feature advertising or charge subscription fees for access to the relevant items.
By simplifying how Web users locate historical news sources, the news archive search feature could also serve to spur media companies to provide richer access to archives, few of which have been digitised or made widely available to date.
Sources range from free news articles on ad-supported sites such as Time Warner Inc.'s Time.com and The Guardian or snippets of articles available for a fee or via subscription, from newspapers like The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
Results are based on relevance, with no favouritism shown to any of Google's partners, officials said. It is also taking a hands-off approach to how it may make money from the feature.
Participating news aggregators include Factiva, AccessMyLibrary.com from Thomson Gale, HighBeam Research and LexisNexis. Factiva is a joint venture of Dow Jones & Co. Inc. and Reuters Group Plc Reuters is not directly offering its news through the archive search of Google News.
"It is another sign of Google learning to work with and enlist the content owners," said Danny Sullivan, an industry analyst with Search Engine Watch.
The media industry initially resisted moves by Google to make online news or photos available through their search systems or to tape video broadcasts off the air and scan copyrighted books from some of the world's great libraries.
But over the past year Google has convinced many of the world's biggest media companies that Google's search systems can offer a path to new revenues for content owners.
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