Update: Ask.com-U.S. President Doug Leeds offered the following additional statement:
"Google's purchase of Aardvark is simply an acknowledgement that Q&A is the future of search. As the #1 brand in Q&A, we’ve been passionate about investing in this next phase of search for a long time. Our current technology is unmatched at answering questions using content we’ve crawled and indexed from across the web. In Q2, we’ll also beta launch a Q+A community that will route the questions we receive to real people with relevant knowledge. This community will reach search engine scale - able to handle more than a million questions a day, faster than Google or any of our competitors. We're singularly focused on Q+A because, in the end, we believe that consumers rather Ask a question, than Google one."
Original Article: Google has reportedly acquired Aardvark, which operates at Vark.com, for around $50 million. Aardvark is a Q&A site. This is a space Ask.com says it is the number one brand for. Ask sees this move by Google as a direct challenge. "Bottom line, this move validates the space we have been #1 in for years," the company says. "It's Google coming after us and our mission."
We spoke to Ask Networks President Scott Garrell, who says, "We welcome the challenge".
A head start in Q&A that is, and Ask views this as even more important to people than web search. The reasoning for this is that web search relies on published information, while Q&A includes unpublished knowledge from people. According to Garrell, Ask gets three to four times more questions as a percentage of total queries than Google.
Ask, while not among the top three in terms of search market share, has managed to gain U.S. market share recently. In fact, from December to January, while Google dropped a percentage point and Yahoo dropped 2, Ask gained 4, according to the latest data from Experian Hitwise.
But Ask is focused more on the Q&A side of things, because it feels like that's what it is truly good at, and the company appears to feel comfortable in that role. Garrell says Ask has the best answers from technology and from people.
"We have a head start," says Garrell. Ask plans to launch a beta of a new, updated version of Ask.com in Q2.
Aardvark is a little bit different of a beast than Ask. Aardvark is more like a Q&A site/social network hybrid, and it's difficult to say just what Google intends to do with it at this time. Will it continue to operate as a standalone entity only, or will Google look to integrate this kind of answer into its own search results at some point? We'll have to wait and see on that one.
One thing Aardvark has going for it is that it can be integrated right into Gmail chat. The social aspect of Aardvark combined with the recently launched Google Buzz, could turn Gmail into a much more social presence altogether.
On a sidenote, on Aardvark, I asked if Google was coming after Ask.com with the Aardvark acquisition, and I got responses like "Ask is so yesterday..." and "Aardvark isn't really in competition with Ask.com." Ask clearly doesn't see it that way. This very example illustrates that Q&A search (at least Aardvark's brand) is prone to just delivering different opinions from people. Granted, the question wasn't one that would lend to a factual answer.
What do you think? What site do you use to get questions answered?