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Google 411′s Impressive Debut

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 Today, I was driving in San Francisco with a couple of other SEO-types and we spotted a prominent billboard for Google’s 411 service.

 The sign wasn’t too specific, but it conveyed that it was a free directory information service of some type. So, being intrepid explorers, we gave it a whirl from the car. First, we spoke the city, “San Francisco.” Then, we were prompted for a business name or category. We thought residential lookup might have been an option, but on the spur of the moment, we gave it “restaurants”. We were then prompted for an address or an intersection, and it recognized “Market and Valencia” without a hitch. In each case, the speech recognition was correct on the first try and our input was repeated for confirmation. It then proceeded to list restaurants close to that location, offering to connect us with their phone number or text the info to our cell phone. Both features worked fine. Three jaded techies were impressed by the accuracy and overall functionality.

 

Later, we decided to use it for real in Palo Alto. This time, we thought we’d throw it a curveball and for the category said “sandwiches” – not exactly a typical yellow pages hot spot. Quite amazingly, Google 411 knew what we wanted and began reciting a list of sandwich shops. Bypassing Subway, we opted for an interesting sounding shop with a vaguely Italian air to its name. We were texted the location info flawlessly. Again, very impressive in delivering what we were looking for without a hitch.

We have to admit, though, that it wasn’t perfect. When we arrived at the restaurant’s door, we found it closed, the windows papered over, and a For Sale sign on the door. I guess we should have done the “connect now” option.

Overall, Google 411 looks to be off to a great start – it delivered useful information in an effortless manner, and in a way that is far superior to a typical directory assistance service. Try it at 1-800-GOOG-411.

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