Google News made its debut on September 22, 2002, after several months of experiments with ranking and organizing technology by Krishna Bharat, who was working on Google Product Search at the time of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001. A self-described "news junkie," Bharat found it difficult in the days after September 11 to find news content from multiple points of view, and decided to work on something that would organize that content.
Clearly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not win the Super Bowl in September 2002; that didn't happen until January 2003. But the look and feel of the Google News site in this example was as it was in September at launch.
Regular search algorithms didn't work in a world of breaking news. In 2001 Google search did not value freshness as highly as it does today, it put a greater emphasis on the number and quality of Web sites linking to a particular page. News stories wouldn't amass links for hours or days, so Bharat devised a way to value freshness and site authority when clustering news stories around a single topic so that relevant content could be added quickly. It drew criticism from publishers who argued their scoops were being pushed down the list by those who wrote their own stories hours later, but Google refined the process over time.
In 2007 Google made the decision to start incorporating search results from properties that used to stand on their own--such as News or Image Search--within the main grouping of search results for a given query. The placement of the news results can vary on the page depending on whether news is breaking or the subject is important, and Google has recently expanded this feature to include "updates" from microblogging services like Twitter.
In 2007 Google figured out a way to present YouTube videos within News story clusters, in addition to regular links to print stories. Google has had a love-hate relationship with news publishers over Google News: it sends a lot of eyeballs to news Web sites, but many publishers feel Google is ripping off their content unfairly.
At one point, Google started surfacing quotes from prominent news subjects if it noticed that several publications had used the same quote and featured it prominently. At one point it also experimented with letting the subjects of news stories comment within Google News on a particular story or story cluster, but that experiment seems to have fizzled.
Google News users were able to start viewing stories by a timeline in 2008, making it much easier to sort through the thousands of stories that can appear in a cluster by narrowing in on a desired time window. Google used some of the same technology it used to scan books for the Google Book Search product in adding older newspaper content to its archives, according to Bharat.
In 2009 Google added a way to see the most important and popular stories in a given day through another timeline view, which can be customized according to a user's preference. Adding additional ways to set reading preferences and figuring out a way to better hook into social networks are top priorities for Google News over the next few years.
Google Fast Flip allows news publishers to upload their content into Google News in the way it was presented in their print editions, giving the reader a similar feel to how they might read the print version of the story or article. Fast Flip may prove popular as the use of touch-screen tablet devices increases.
In response to criticism from news publishers that it wasn't doing enough to help them adjust to the digital era, Google embarked on projects such as "Living Stories," experiments in how to present news and information in a way that took better advantage of Internet technology. The New York Times has been among the more prominent supporters within the news industry of some of Google's efforts in these areas.
During the summer of 2010, Google redesigned the Google News page, giving it its most radical overhaul since the original site was launched. Die-hard fans hated the one-column design, but Google gave them a way to bring back the two-column design and defended the changes as better equipped to allow more personalization of news topics and sources while still presenting important or interesting news in prominent places.