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Google slowly revives Deja archives

The popular search service cracks open a lockbox filled with millions of newsgroup conversations nearly three months after it bought the collection from now-defunct

Google has cracked open a lockbox filled with millions of newsgroup conversations, dated to 1995, nearly three months after the popular search service bought the collection from now-defunct

Late Thursday night, Google made available more than 650 million messages from Usenet--a bulletin board discussion area linked off the Internet. By adding the archive to a "beta," or test, version of the revamped service, Google is taking its first step to fully restore postings many Internet users have come to depend on for research and communication about special interests.

When Google in February bought parts of Deja, an early discussion-group search site, it did not immediately plug in the entire Deja archive. This caused some uproar among its longtime users. Thursday's move serves to calm some early concerns that the postings would be lost after the acquisition.

"This is human conversation going back six years--and something that users had asked for, for a long time," said Google spokesman David Krane. He added that because Deja pulled the archive from its site in May 2000, before it went out of business, demand for the records was heightened.

The delay on Google's part came from its efforts to create a newsgroup service that would complement its own search site. Over the last couple of months, the company has added several features to enhance search, including hierarchical browsing and searching by date, keyword, author, group, subject and message ID.

Rather than purchase Deja's search engine and interface along with the archive, Google opted to develop its own search capability, promising big improvements within a few months.

However, the archives were just one of many missing pieces in the test version, and critics say the service still needs work; for example, newsgroup users can't post messages. Google plans to begin letting people post messages "no later than mid-May," Krane said.

The company said it's working to address technical and other search issues that come from making such a huge volume of data available. In its full version, the site will appear in Google's simple design and let people browse and post messages in a faster environment.