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Google Answers Crashes Out

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Even though few of Google’s services beyond search have caught on with the public like its omnipresent search engine, the company rarely kills off those projects; that made the announcement that Google Answers would be shutdown mildly surprising.

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Andrew Fikes and Lexi Baugher, software engineers who worked on Google Answers, had to bid adieu to their project. The site will no longer accept new questions, and by the end of the year will stop taking new answers.

Google Answers never caught on beyond a small core of users, who would pay for answers to their questions. Like many of Google’s secondary projects, Answers was never heavily promoted.

Those two areas stand in stark contrast to Yahoo! Answers, which Yahoo offers for free. That effort has gained a tremendous amount of participation, though much of the sillier questions and answers do make it look like a glorified Usenet in practice.

Google attempted to make its Answers a viable choice for people seeking answers from the variety of users available through the project. More than 800 users over the years participated and delivered their responses to a variety of questions.

“The project started with a rough idea from Larry Page, and a small 4-person team turned it into reality in less than 4 months,” the engineers wrote. “For two new grads, it was a crash course in building a scalable product, responding to customer requests, and discovering what questions are on people’s minds.”

The pay-for-answers model probably doomed the project, especially since so many questions can be answered through a free Google search. Or Yahoo search, or Ask search, or even MSN/Live search. Google Answers needed a greater number of participants, but for-pay always has a tough time competing with free.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Google Answers Crashes Out
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