Google Buys Aardvark for $50 Million

After Google's failed acquisition of Yelp and on the heels of its launch of Buzz, Google has agreed to acquire "social search engine" Aardvark for $50M (per TechCrunch). A deal had been rumored for several weeks. I received confirmation also directly from the founders.

I'm a fan of Aardvark. (See the discussion of the company's distribution of queries.) It doesn't work in every situation, but it often does and when it does, it works better and more efficiently (in mobile in particular) than Google. In a vaguely ironic sort of way, this is a return to "Google Answers," a peer-to-peer paid answers service that was shut down following the rise of the free Yahoo Answers service a few years ago.

The acquisition also marks yet another -- and perhaps the most radical -- step in Google's attempted transformation from "machine" to human-powered network, or at least one partially powered by humans. 

Google will undoubtedly geocode all of the Aardvark questions/answers and push them out to Place Pages and, perhaps, Buzz (at least in mobile). Indeed, there are a range of ways that the company could integrate and utilize what is effectively a loosely knit social network of people. Among them it could push Aardvark answers into search results in the same way it indexes any content. It could also prompt people to ask a person (Aardvark) if the algo results didn't satisfy.  

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