These days, staying away from Google is nearly impossible. Just ask ex-Googlers Max Ventilla and Nathan Stoll, who left the search giant to make their own engine – a social search tool called Aardvark – just to turn right back around and sell it to them.

Though Google has yet to confirm the purchase themselves, TechCrunch reports that Big G has paid out somewhere around US$ 50 million for Aardvark. This is significant because even though you might not have heard of them, the company is no small player.

Finding the Best Answer

Because it’s social, the engine requires users to register first. Once that’s all set, a user can ask any question and Aardvark will search for "the perfect person to answer." The idea is that instead of digging through pages of content, a user can get a direct answer the first time around. 

The success of the engine is, of course, entirely dependent on the number of users, the number of questions asked and the number of questions answered. As of October 2009, such stats looked like this: 

  • 90,361 users
  • 55.9% of users had created content
  • An average of 3,167.2 questions per day
  • 98.1% of questions asked on Aardvark were unique
  • 87.7% of questions submitted were answered (60% within the first 10 minutes)

What Will Google Do with Aardvark?

Honestly, who knows! Big G has had a social hair up their you-know-what for a long time now, but the itch has been particularly prevalent this year, highlighted exponentially by the release of Google Buzz

Google also kicked out a social search function of their own last month. The feature is still in beta, and you can see it in action if you've got a Google Profile. It  works sort of like Aardvark, except instead of posing a question to a load of strangers, Google Social Search digs up results related to a query from within your social circle.

For example, if you use Google to search for a restaurant like Denny's and a friend connected to you via your Profile has reviewed that restaurant on Yelp and connected Yelp to their Profile, their review will likely be in your social search results. This is great for discovering the Web activities of your friends, but not exactly direct and time-saving like Aardvark aims to be. 

Like most of Google's moves as of late, the addition of Social Search was seen by many as a challenge for Facebook. It will be interesting to see if and how the acquisition of Aardvark will continue that conversation.