Google Dumps Aardvark in Google Labs, but to What End?

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-02-13 Print this article Print

Google confirmed Feb. 11 that it had indeed acquired social search engine Aardvark, a rare departure from the stock "we have nothing to share at this time" rejoinder to requests for information.

But Google refused to offer other details. Until today. Google and Aardvark CEO Max Ventilla wrote blog posts discussing the move, which includes Aardvark being dumped into Google Labs, oddly enough. Ventilla saluted the deal with this cute logo:


Aardvark lets its 90,000-plus users ask questions that get answered by humans within 10 minutes.

Users submit questions directly to Aardvark's search site via e-mail, instant messaging, Twitter or Apple's iPhone. Aardvark analyzes questions, and forwards them to the most appropriate person in the user's e-mail contacts and social networks.

What's so good about this when users can just go to Google or Bing for info? As Google's search product management director Johanna Wright noted, some answers are best found by tapping humans with expertise.

Ventilla, who left Google in 2007 to form Aardvark with some other ex-Googlers, explained Aardvark's rationale for the deal -- scale, baby! (he also made a lot of money, with the deal a reported $50 million):

We want social search to reach hundreds of millions people around the world, and joining with Google lets us reach that scale...

We still don't know how Google will leverage Aardvark, though the parties affirmed Aardvark is now part of Google Labs, and indeed here it is as the latest "experiment" for the site:

GoogleVark 2.png

Fortunately for the 90,000 users, "Aardvark will keep running and improving on a daily basis -- over IM and email, on the Aardvark Mobile iPhone app, and on"

Moreover, Ventilla said Aardvark will keep introducing new features, fixing bugs and improving the speed and quality of the service.

It's unclear if and how Aardvark will mesh with Google's Social Search, which incidentally just graduated from Google Labs a few weeks ago as an effort to help Web searchers surface user-generated content from their network of friends.

Moreover, Ventilla noted his team will be exploring ways to improve social features in other Google products.

So Google just got more social firepower to help with Social Search and Google Buzz, with the Aardvark guys possibly working with social whizzes Joseph Smarr and Chris Messina. That's good for Google, bad for Facebook.

Tony Bradley suggests some business use cases for Aardvark, including idea innovation and customer service scenarios.

But I see it more as a consumer service, not that it can't be used for knowledge workers, but it doesn't feel very business-like.

ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick puts forth some fine scenarios, which you should read if this social search stuff suits your fancy.

What do you think of this deal? I'm not surprised Google would make this move, considering its increased presence in social services. It will be fun to see what it does for Social Search, Google Buzz and Aardvark. |

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