Google acquisition last week of Aardvark seemed a natural choice, given Google’s dominance in search. But in light of the company’s Buzz launch, Aardvark integration becomes even more interesting. I have no insight or inside knowledge of Google’s plans for Aardvark, but there’s one possibility worth speculating on.
Aardvark was not a smashing success measured in terms of its user base. But it worked quite well, so its matching and graph mining technologies and methods must have been well designed. This alone may have been of value to Google. In its quest for social search solutions, Aardvark’s price tag may have been justified on the basis of its technology and talent rather than its user base. (As was the case with Friendfeed’s acquisition by Facebook).
But consider what Google could do if it ran Aardvark behind Gmail and user contacts. And if this were integrated with Buzz. Aardvark’s Question/Answer service could then function within a Gmail or Buzz environment, permitting users to leverage their Gmail and Buzz social graphs for the purpose of asking and answering questions.
For example, Google Buzz could feature a new type of post: the Question post. Aardvark would mine that user’s first and second degree follower relations and Gmail contacts, and notify potential answerers. Answers would then be displayed inline with the Buzz Question post. An option for private answers would of course make sense, as also an option for non-public Questions.
- As Buzz answers accrued to the original Question, Google could add to its Aardvark matching index for user responsiveness (who actually responds).
- Starring, liking, or rating might be added to allow for audience participation, and results further used to supplement the matching index for user answer quality (who provides top rated responses).
- Tagging might be added to classify Questions and their responses.
- Domain experts would then be surfaced and might be ranked to enlist social incentives for participation.
- A directory of past questions would grow, offering Google an archive of graph-sourced social search results
- And this directory might be further mined for surfacing alongside Google search results. Something like: “Related Buzz questions and answers.”
- Google wavelets could be built to distribute questions to blogs, so that blogging domain experts could surface interesting questions and answers outside the Buzz ecosystem.
- A mobile option with a simplified interface could integrate with maps and offer Foursquare or Yelp-like recommendations.
Buzz would benefit, because content would self-organize. Search would benefit, because questions and answers would inevitably include real-time topics and interests. Google’s social efforts would benefit, because Google could back its way into topical social networking by means of questions and answers. And the whole approach would fit within the current paradigm of realtime streams, using an effective idiom (questions/answers) for doing so.
As said, I have no insight into the deal. But perhaps there was more there than meets the eye.