Aardvark Joins the Google Zoo..

If Techcrunch is to be believed, and as it is one of the rare occasions these days that Arrington himself contributes I tend to believe, then Aardvark has been acquired by Google for around $50 million.

I was an early beta tester of Aardvark and though I have at times found the service frustrating I have always thought the core of their idea was extremely clever but would require a huge amount of users to really make any kind of impact – or for that matter really be that useful.

Very few people in my social graph ever joined up so I found it more akin to a real-time Q&A site – lacking the ‘trust’ element that I’m sure was key to the concept. Still despite getting some weird requests for answers recently I have tended to find it quite fun and have always answered where I could and also used it to get a locals take on holiday planning (an advantage of holidaying in the US was that I got some great local tips..)

Search based around a persons social graph obviously has some currency but Google will likely mothball Aardvark now and strip-mine it for technologies they find useful to integrate with their search offering but also with things like Open Social and Buzz.

Funnily enough Aardvark had just recently had a little burst of publicity again as it is presenting a paper at WWW2010 (the official W3C conference) on its findings to date. Maybe that research is what swung it with Google? The fact that the Aardvark founders were all ex-Google tends to suggest they know what interests the higher-ups around the Googleplex.

When I was at Jiva the whole idea of ‘social search’ was something that preoccupied us a great deal and we had some not dissimilar ideas to Aardvark though aimed at niches and maybe not quite so ambitious (Kevin was fond of the phrase ‘don’t try to boil the ocean’!). A lot of the ideas we bounced around back then are starting to see the light under the Specialize.In label and hopefully they can use this upsurge in interest around this subject to shine a little light on their own products. They’ve built some cool stuff and I hope that people start to see that (if for no other reason that it makes my CV look cooler!)

Like Clay Shirky said it is a “filter failure, not information overload“, that is at the heart of peoples problems with the web today and I’m pretty sure social search is part of the fix for this (though a long way from a complete cure!)