Google is the new microfiche archive

Didn’t have time to blog this earlier today, for reasons that are too depressing to go into, but I still think Google’s announcement about an expanded newspaper archive search is one of the few things that have come out of TechCrunch50 and DEMO ’08 that I can genuinely get excited about. Most of the other news seems to involve companies whose vowel-deprived names (and in some cases business models) were either snatched out of the latest Web 2.0 hat — or in some cases copied directly from some other revenue-deprived startup.

Sure, Google’s archive search — which involves aggregating scans of old newspapers from around the country and the world (including a shout out to the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, the oldest newspaper in North America) — may be another revenue-free offering from the Web giant, as Silicon Alley Insider notes. But I guess I’m a sucker for Google’s motto about making all of the world’s information freely available. Or maybe I just have not-so-fond memories of scanning through reams of old microfiche slides from yellowing file folders in the newspaper library when I started in the news business. I would have given anything for a one-stop search that could find keywords in those files.

Marissa Mayer also told the TechCrunch50 conference that Google plans to sell AdSense around the archives, and share the revenue with publishers — so maybe the odd buggy-whip company or patent-medicine maker could get some mileage out of those old newspaper clippings from the 1870s. But at least news geeks like me will be happy.

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