A Yahoo lab in Barcelona has developed Time Explorer, a new search engine that goes back AND forward in time to see what people have said and predicted will happen on a topic. Here’s the timeline you get when you search for “China”:

timeline22 Back to the future: Yahoos Time Explorer is a search engine for the past and future

Right now, Time Explorer is populated with New York Times articles dating back to 1987, and it certainly is fascinating. Basically the idea is that people say things about the future all the time, such as “by 2035 we’ll have a true Semantic Web,” etc., and what Time Explorer does is index and serve results around the year that NYT writers referenced. So an article written in 1992 about 1992 will show up on the Time Explorer timeline under 1992, but an article written in 1993 about 2011, will show up under 2011.

opinion1 260x343 Back to the future: Yahoos Time Explorer is a search engine for the past and futureTime Explorer also gives some other interesting data about the year in question. It lists “Persons” of interest around the keyword, as well as a cool “Opinion Panel” that offers trends and adjustments of intensity and polarity, as well a “Sources” panel (which of course right now is just the NYT).

Time Explorer most closely resembles Wolfram Alpha in how it presents its data, and is certainly closer to that site than traditional search engines.

A note on the site says that right now Time Explorer only supports Firefox. Regardless, this new effort from Yahoo is certainly something to keep an eye on in the future.