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A View from Erica Naone

Google Acquires Social Search Engine Aardvark

The search giant is aggressively pursuing social features.

  • February 11, 2010

Google wants social features very badly, it seems. Damon Horowitz, CTO and co-founder of Aardvark, an interesting search startup that integrates social interaction and artificial intelligence, has today confirmed reports that the company has been acquired by Google.

I wrote recently about the company’s approach to search–Aardvark uses artificial intelligence to find the right people to answer a user’s query. It then trusts those people to provide the desired information and refine the query as needed.

I’ve used Aardvark a great deal in the months since, and I’ve found it invaluable for answering questions that benefit from human guidance or opinion. It’s a great place, for example, to ask “How do I get started making electronic music?” or “What’s a mind-blowing novel of first contact?”

Aardvark claims more than 90,000 users and clearly has very promising technology. But I do worry about what Google plans to do with it. Aardvark works well partly due to close integration with Facebook, and Google doesn’t seem to be on the social networking company’s, ahem, friends list. Google may try to transplant the technology onto one of its own social structures, such as Google Talk. In that case, the company could face some backlash from users, similar to some of the early negative reactions to the automatically generated social networks for Google’s new product Buzz.

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