Google has confirmed its purchase of social search engine start-up Aardvark, spending an estimated $50 million (£32 million) to return ex-employees to the fold.
, a human-powered question-and-answer based social search engine, was created in late 2007 by The Mechanical Zoo, a company founded by ex-Google employees and comprising at the time Max Ventilla, Damon Horowitz, Rob Spiro, and Nathan Stoll. The search engine they created is markedly different from ex-employer Google's, however, in that results are returned in minutes rather than seconds - because each result is offered by real-world humans.
Although not the first human-powered search engine, the start-up has caught the eye of search giant Google: according to VentureBeat
the company has splashed out a whopping $50 million to buy the company and return its employees back to the Google fold - significantly richer than when they left.
Coming so soon after the launch of Google's controversial new social networking service Google Buzz
it's clear to see where Google is concentrating its efforts: social networking, and the use of one's social network to provide more personalised, detailed, and useful information than a cold, impersonal search engine powered by algorithms and honking-great databases.
It's an interesting direction for the company to take: with microblogging service Twitter considered to hold the crown on real-time searching thanks to its hordes of users commenting on every little thing that happens, Google will be playing catch-up in this particular game - and is clearly hoping that its investment in Aardvark will help towards that goal.
Does the idea of a social network powered search engine make sense, or is it the sort of service for which you'd use Twitter? Is Google barking up the wrong tree, or has it stumbled onto the next big thing for search? Share your thoughts over in the forums