You can teach a mouse new clicks. See what Google has now done: its News Archive Search lets users recall news stories and articles of the last two centuries, all at a mere click. As the internet redefines the very concept of connectivity, it was a matter of time before you could browse through years of digitised news. But even then the News Archive Search is virtually a quantum jump over the existing 30-day news archive, allowing users to put even news stories buried in the past in perspective.
It is unprecedented moves like this that make Google arguably the ultimate status symbol of web use today. From digitising libraries of the world’s most important academic institutions and making them available for research and reading online, to letting consumers download, gratis, classic novels no longer under copyright, the web giant has certainly made internet searches amazingly subtler, and life so much more interesting for the surfer. Its search algorithms sift through virtual repositories of data on the web to zoom in on whatever it is that you are trying to find. The vast reach of the internet notwithstanding, there’s so much of information offline that could potentially be brought online. Irrelevant web pages using indexing systems are of little help, as are systems that rely on ranking web pages by content.
An unexpected upside of these developments is that they couldn’t be happening a minute too soon. In the next decade or two, acid in the paper and pollutants will destroy loads of print material. These may then exist only digitally.