The Boston Phoenix is reporting that Google has decided to quit further work on Google News Archive, its plan to scan and index 250 years’ worth of microfilm copies of newspapers and turn them into a searchable database. The Phoenix says that Google wants to concentrate on projects of more immediate benefit to newspaper companies, and speculates that the News Archive may have been tougher to implement and less popular than Google expected.
It’s sad news. No other Web company except Google would have had the ambition and good intentions to try and do this in the first place; it’s possible that very concept of a grand unified index of the world’s newspapers just died. But while the project was a success in terms of sheer bulk–according to the Phoenix, Google scanned 60 million pages–it had crippling usability issues. I suspect that many folks who’d find it immensely useful have no clue that it exists–and even if they do, they may find it weirdly difficult to navigate.