Northern Light

[Web Search]

The Northern Light web search introduced in 1997 worked until 2002. The search engine offered several new ideas: For example, it had a category search (a very new idea at the time) based on keywords, sources and so on. Librarians created the search interface in a two-year project. Second, they combined a web search with a kind of deep web search. In addition to the web results, users receive full-text journal articles on a pay-as-you-go basis. Today, "Northern Light" works as a news search.

Language English

Launched August 12, 1997
Closed In December 2001 the SeEn was closed for the public, the news search closed in 2003 and re-opened in 2009

Developer Northern Light Group, LLC

Country of Origin US America

1997 - 2001 Northern Light Group, LLC

Topic Universal

Region No Limitation

Technical functionalities
Robot/Crawler based, algorithmic search

Used SeEn Northern Light Search

Robot: Northern Light Gulliver (Source)

Older Version Internet Archive / WebCite

»The company is named after the clipper ship Northern Light, which held the speed record for the San Francisco to Boston voyage for nearly 150 years. From its founding in 1996 until January 2002, Northern Light operated a Web search engine for public use. During this time period it also developed an enterprise offering of private custom search engines that it built for large corporate clients and marketed under the trade name SinglePoint. In 2002, Northern Light discontinued its public search engine and was acquired by an enterprise software company. In 2003, an employee group bought the company from its parent and it is still employee-owned as of 2010 and SinglePoint is its main product line.« Source

»On August 12, 1997, Northern Light Technology introduced its Northern Light Search ( or, a refreshing new direction for Internet search engines. The Northern Light search engine made two significant steps forward. First, the Northern Light database searches both Web pages and full-text articles. Secondly, Northern Light sorts its search results into folders based on keywords, source, and other criteria.

Under development for two years, Northern Light hired librarians to help with the construction of the search interface. Rather than relying on advertising dollars to support this free search engine, the plan is to support the effort through the sale of the full-text articles. Ranging in price from free to $4 an article, the full citations are free. Unique to Northern Light is its money back guarantee. With its Web index, free citations, full-text sources, and sophisticated sorting, Northern Light is a must try for all information professionals.« Source

»WHAT NORTHERN LIGHT IS: Special Collection & the Web - Search over 120 Million Web pages and the Special Collection™ of more than 5,400 full text sources.« »« Source

Danny Sullivan (2004): Search Engine Timeline »8/12/97 Northern Light search engine launches publicly. It is the first major search engine to begin crawling the web since the launch of HotBot back in May 1996.« ---------- »Jul. 1999 - A new study published in Nature on search engine sizes verifies Northern Light's claim to having the largest index of the web.« Source

Jacso, Peter (1998):»Best pay-as-you-go Web service to Northern Light (NL) for its eponymous service to users who need recent (maximum 4-5 years old) full-text articles from several hundred core academic, research, and professional journals (out of the 4,500 total sources) in sciences and social sciences. The search is free, and even viewing the abstracts is free. The articles cost between $1 and $4, and I found many very long (15- to 35-page) articles from top library and information science and technology journals that cost $1 apiece. The search software, which acts both as a Web-wide search engine and the NL local search engine, is powerful and intuitive, and clustering of results into folders by topic, language, source, etc. is an excellent idea.« Source


»Northern Light was the name of a clipper ship built in Boston in 1851. It had a radical new design, being sharply raked below the water line. The new design was a great success and the Northern Light became known for its speed and ground-breaking technology. In 1853, the Northern Light captured the public's attention by winning a widely-publicized race from San Francisco to Boston against two other highly regarded clipper ships.« Source

Critical points

Features & Functionality

»Rich search features (proximity, Boolean, field searching); Custom Search Folders; Special Collection and News Databases« A review of the search functionalities you find here: Source


»In 2000, the company was the title sponsor for the IndyCar Series.« Source

References & further Publications

Wikipedia (EN):
Wikipedia (Others): n.a.

Other Sources

Sherman, Chris (2002): Northern Light to Close Public Search Engine. Online available at Search Engine Watch. URL:
Notess, Greg R.: Review of Northern Light. Online available at Search Engine Showdown. URL:
Notess, Greg R.: Northern Light: New Search Engine for the Web and Full-Text Articles in Database 21(1):32-37, Feb.-Mar. 1998. Online available at the website from the author. URL:
Danny Sullivan (2004): Search Engine Timeline URL:
O'Leary, Mick (February 1, 2007): Northern Light: Better the Second Time Around? URL:
Jacso, Peter (1998): Jasco's Internet Cheers and Jeers for 1998 URL:
Giles, C. L., Bollacker, K. D., & Lawrence, S. (1998). CiteSeer. In Proceedings of the third ACM conference on Digital libraries - DL ’98 (pp. 89–98). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. Retrieved from URL:

Created: 2013-02-13