Google News Archive will also offer access to the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper as well as Time Warner's ( TWX) Time magazine. Articles from news retrieval services including Lexis Nexis and Factiva also will be available.

"Users can search for events, people, ideas and see how they have been described over time,'' Google says. "In addition to searching for the most relevant articles for their query, users can get an historical overview of the results by browsing an automatically created timeline.''

Like most Google services that the company hypes through the media, it probably won't have a meaningful impact on the company's bottom line. The company's stock didn't react to the news. Its shares fell $1.86 to $382.50 in premarket trading.

Nonetheless, Google News Archive may offer some hints about the company's strategic direction. The company's ambitions are clearly to be more than just a search engine. Earlier, there were indications that Google was trying to make itself into a portal like its rival Yahoo! ( YHOO). The company even launched services like Google News and Google Finance that compete directly with some of Yahoo!'s most popular features. But now, the picture isn't so clear.

Search Engine Watch , a Web site that follows the search industry, reports that Google doesn't plan to become a content aggregator or to even allow people to buy content from the news archives through their Google accounts. It's also not apparent how Google will make money from this feature.

"We're not focusing on monetization yet," Anurag Acharya, a Google engineer who helped develop the service, tells The New York Times. "This is new territory for us."

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