Aardvark Launches an iPhone App

Aardvark, which is now describing itself as “social search engine" is really more like an "answer community." Regardless of the label the company uses to describe itself it has launched an app for the iPhone. I've written about Aardvark several times in the past and wrote up today's announcement at Search Engine Land. 

This may turn out to be the turning point for the company (like Pandora or Urbanspoon's iPhone apps). We'll see. But that's my intuition. 

The thing that struck me as I spoke to co-founder and former Googler Max Ventilla is that with the arrival of the iPhone app people will start to "get" what Aardvark is all about and see use cases more clearly: word of mouth on the go. People have been able to get to Aardvark via mobile but not in a simple way (SMS is still a way off). But it's a broader service that isn't simply about "need it now" recommendations. I can ask where to go on my 10 wedding anniversary or who won the 1957 world series or what's the best pinot noir for under $20

The services that it most directly competes against are ChaCha and kgb. The difference is that Aardvark is trying to build a community of user contacts to respond to queries vs using professional or semi-professional agents. And building that community is where the challenge resides. 

To that end Aardvark leverages both Facebook (and Facebook Connect) and Twitter as "entry points." If Aardvark can gain traction in mobile it can build momentum toward faster and more comprehensive answers, which right now take from about 2-5 minutes to receive. But the quality of responses has been good so far for me. 

The PC-mobile integration will also benefit loyalty and engagement. 

I asked Ventilla about speech and voice interfaces. He said they had built one but that alpha testers were not ready for the additional "complexity" it apparently introduced. Ventilla isn't abandoning speech, he's just defferring it. He also told  me that, like speech, there are many more enhancements coming in future versions of the app.