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Social Search Says Ask, Don’t Tell.

by Graham Huber on February 19, 2010

blog thisAardvark just announced they’ve been bought by Google.

And here I was just in the middle of writing a piece on why social search is the next big thing.


Because if you don’t know, you can always Google it. That is, everyone knows search is big. To google has even made it into the dictionary as a verb. But social search? That’s huge.

Welcome to the next search paradigm.

Like processing power before it, Moore’s Law now applies to search capacity. It’s no longer enough for the average query to return a billion results in under a few microseconds. Social search leverages the power of real living users with thoughts, feelings and opinions (just like you!) to sort, organizes, rank, reference and even respond personally to your queries with the answers you really want.

Social search is smart, and getting smarter. Fast.

The Aardvark acquisition adds a two-way dimension to search. Now instead of just submitting a one-way query, you can ask a question and get a real response, from real users:

typeme“When you need an answer to a very specific question, sometimes the information just isn’t online in one simple place [...] Aardvark analyzes questions to determine what they’re about and then matches each question to people with relevant knowledge and interests to give you an answer quickly.”

Read Google’s press release.

The model has already been proven tremendously popular with other Q&A sites like, Yahoo Answers, and Google itself with the now-defunct Google Answers.

Last week, we reviewed Google SearchWiki, a social bookmarking integration launched by Google last November, albeit with raised eyebrows. Like many, we had questions about the relevance of this seemingly “me-too” feature for Google search as a possible challenge to popular social bookmarking sites Digg and Reddit.

Earlier this week, the launch of Google Buzz introduces a status-update feed into your Gmail inbox, a move by Google some claim is designed to weigh in with a microblogging strategy as popularized by Facebook and Twitter.

As the master plan continues to unfold before our eyes today, it’s all making a lot more sense. Google Buzz, Google Wave, Google SearchWiki, and now, Google… Vark?

Social search is here.

Unlike the coldly computed ranking of machine-generated results by algorithm, social search infuses the results you get with the social values of your network — your friends, peers, colleagues, and relevant strangers — for results that are more relevant, more interesting, and more often than not, closer to what you’re really looking for.

Even the algorithms are being designed to understand the fuzziness of context: Wolfram Alpha is a “computational knowledge engine”, designed to parse ambiguous queries to return all relevant interpretations. Try typing in the name of a famous president, or a number. Instead of returning a list of links to other websites that may have some information about what you’re asking for based on keyword analysis and other ranking metrics, Wolfram Alpha interprets your query and returns what everything it knows about it.

This is one step closer to truly subjective search and human-like artificial intelligence that can “understand human”. Projects like Siri are actively exploring the emerging reality of virtual assistants.

All this leads to some very interesting questions about the future… How long before Google just reads your mind?

Related posts:

  1. Google SearchWiki Makes Search Wonky
  2. Using Social Media to Build Traffic for Your Website
  3. Social Media for Small Business Part III: Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media
  4. Facebook knows what you did last summer and it is about to tell it all: Facebook Search Engine
  5. Social Media for Small Business Part I


Nichey February 19, 2010 at 9:26 PM

google is really on the war path this year. they’re absorbing everything in their way, and if they can’t buy it they’re making their own version of it. i wonder what sort of situation they’ll be in when 2010 ends.

SweetTarts February 19, 2010 at 9:32 PM

Ive never heard of Vark until now it sounds similar to a lot of other programs. Is it just more advanced or established than the others or did they pick it because it was cheap?

Harpreet Monga February 22, 2010 at 3:45 PM

Really nice article.

Mighty_Max February 22, 2010 at 8:36 PM

It’s a little disturbing to me that “to google” has made it into the dictionary… I guess Tweeting and Facebooking will be in there soon to…

I know language is constantly evolving but I guess those kinds of evolutions still strike me as weird…

MixedUp February 23, 2010 at 6:43 PM

I wish Google read my mind, it would make my research a million times easier if it did! They seem to be branching out a lot lately, I wonder if all their acquisitions will be profitable…

Rusher September 16, 2010 at 9:29 AM

I’m sure facebook and twitter/tweeting will be in the dictionary by the end of the year if it’s not already. These are probably some of the most-used words in existence right now.

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