Goog-411 R.I.P. – I’ll Miss You

Update 10:43 EST: Perhaps I am in ever hopeful denial or perhaps someone at Google forgot to turn out the lights but when I just dialed 1-800-Goog-411, it answered and was still working!

I have followed Goog-411 from its seriptitious inception masquerading as a non-Google service called 520-find, to its bizarre rural advertising campaign, to the announcement last month of its ultimate demise. I have been writing about it and using it since October, 2006, well before it was announced as a Google product in April, 2007. It clearly demonstrated for me, the reach that Google Local would have.

Today, it has officially shut down.

Goog-411 billboard

It did one thing and did it well…. retrieve business phone numbers and complete calls for you with a simple voice interface. It worked on every cell phone ever made.

It was (and still is) Google’s best mobile product and one that most closely reflected the spartan, utilitarian ideals of the original Google search engine. It was simple. It worked. It was device independent and it was free. It was the absolute safest way to complete a call while driving down the highway…. no fiddling with the phone, no visual interaction. You talked, it listened and then it dialed.

It came out at a time when 411 services were all the rage and every company was trying to develop a successful business model. Unfortunately none ever succeeded at creating both a successful income stream AND a useful product that achieved mass adoption. Goog-411 was no exception. Despite its razor sharp focus and utility, Google never found a great way to monetize it (nor promote it- sheesh billboards in Olean? Maybe they just wanted to hear phonemes from Northern Appalachia :) ).

After a while, it was repositioned as a way for Google to learn and acquire phonemes to improve their speech recognition.

Apparently it has done that admirably. Google suggests replacing it with their iPhone or Android voice search which do a great job (if I am standing still). It seems though that every time I try to use it the way that I used Goog-411, I nearly get in an accident.

As much as I like Google’s (and others for that matter) current mobile voice search products none can do what Goog-411 does. I will miss it.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Goog-411 R.I.P. - I'll Miss You by

8 thoughts on “Goog-411 R.I.P. – I’ll Miss You”

  1. My condolences Mike. It’s always hard to lose a friend. :)

    I agree with a number of your comments. I’ve had goog 411 on my favorites/speed dial on my last 3 cell phones as it’s easiest to use when driving. It was ‘fun’ as well to have a crossover of use for local search listings. But no more.

    Now I’m saving 1-888-Professor-Maps to my phone. I hope you answer.

  2. For all Google’s unprecedented success with search and search ads, many times they demonstrate a lack of even basic marketing ability to launch other products. It just goes to show: you can’t be good at everything.

  3. @Aaron
    I will always answer 1-888-Professor-Maps! It’s a compulsion.

    In fact I have a great business plan for it, similar to my plan in the Google Forums: You call, I will pay you for the privilege of hearing how a Google bug is messing with your business!

  4. I miss Google 411 as well. Bing introduced their version a while back: 1-800-246-4411 (1-800-BING-411) Try it :-) It’s not available here in Vancouver, Canada though :-(
    Andy :-)

  5. @Andy
    I have tried Bing-411 over the years (not lately) and it always added several layers of unnecessary queries

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