Google Buys Aardvark Social Search Engine Run by Former Googlers

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-02-11

Google Feb. 11 confirmed TechCrunch's report that it has acquired Aardvark, a social search engine formed by ex-Google employees.

A Google spokesperson told eWEEK, "We have signed a definitive agreement to acquire Aardvark, but we don't have any additional details to share right now."

A departure from the math-oriented search services of Google and Microsoft Bing, Aardvark offers search results powered by humans instead of algorithms.

Aardvark, which has accrued 90,000 users since launching in October, is definitely not like a traditional search engine that gauges the words in a user's query and trolls the Web for relevant content that matches the query terms.

Users submit questions directly to Aardvark's search site via e-mail, instant messaging, Twitter or Apple's iPhone. Aardvark analyzes incoming questions to determine what they're about and forwards the questions to the most appropriate person in the user's social network, such as Facebook.

If the service is working as it should, it will retrieve an answer within 10 minutes, but the sooner the better. The idea is to get relevant answers on any topic as quickly as possible.

Google declined to say how Aardvark's technology might be used within the company confines. It's unclear if and how Aardvark will mesh with Google's Social Search effort to help Web searchers surface user-generated content from their network of friends connected by social networking services listed in their Google profiles.

It's no secret Google has been bent on ramping up its social computing capabilities.

Google Feb. 9 launched Google Buzz, bringing content-sharing capabilities to its Gmail application at a time when real-time updates are all the rage on Facebook and microblog network Twitter.

The purchase of Aardvark further fans the flames of speculation that Google fears Facebook's social networking might of 400 million users.

Aardvark competes with Hunch, Mahalo, ChaCha and a number of other so-called search engines that add a more personal touch to helping users find what they're looking for through the Web.

Aardvark is run by some ex-Googlers, including CEO Max Ventilla, who focused on corporate development for Google's AdSense and Web applications, and Nathan Stoll, who ran Google News before leaving.

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