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Google has debuted a new service that allows you to search news archives dating back something like two hundred years.

Google News Archive, available at news.google.com/archivesearch, lets you search and find both free and paid newspaper and magazine archives from a number of partners, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time magazine and Lexis-Nexis.

The New York Times calls this a search engine for at least part of the “dark web” that could not normally be indexed by search engines. In the same article, an analyst for Gartner Research speculates that Google will eventually handle a payment system for the paid content in the Archive, and that Google will eventually add old video content.

Philipp notes that the Archive has enough different sources that in some cases you will find the same old article in multiple places, and it will cost money in one place but not in others. In addition, the advanced search options let you restrict your searches to just the free content. Time periods are listed in the sidebar for you to select, and a blue arrow will indicate a time period where something particularly important happened, according to SEW. Gary Price points out that the same paid content Google points to is, in many cases, completely free when accessed from a library. Amit Agarwal found results from as far back as 1754.

Of particular interest is the timeline view, which shows chunks of particularly interesting times for your search. Of course, it also reveals bugs in the search engine, as articles before 1980 seem to almost never show up. Try any sports team search, and you’ll see what I mean.

Compare the results:

Mets (1950-2006) vs. Mets (1950-1980)
Yankees (1900-2006) vs. Yankees (1900-1980)

In fact, it almost seems like you would be best off restricting timeline searches to periods before 1980, because if you include periods after 1980 it skews your results to modern news stories. This may be due to the index having much more post-1980 content, which makes it seem like more news happened after 1980, and thus the events prior to 1980 seem of less importance.

Still, News Archive is a useful new tool, and one that will get even better when Google stops cluttering it with World War I draft records.

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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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