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.
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.
I recently received a text from Google that their SMS system is now providing public residential phone listings via a text message.
Simply enter a name, city & st. or zip and text it to 46645 (GOOGL) and you will receive back a complete residential listing including the phone and street address. Can a Goog-411 residential service be far behind?
Greg Sterling has noted a Thomson/Google deal that adds a one-touch, auto-dial GOOG-411 button into many of its latest GE-branded DECT 6.0â„¢ cordless phones. It should give Jingle’s Free 411 service a pause and it certainly raises questions about when Google will monetize its free DA service. Voice DA services are currently very lucrative and free voice DA services have the potential to be very disruptive to them. LocalMobile notes no firm has been better at converting activity to revenue and profits than Google.
As Greg pointed out from a recent LocalMobile survey 76.3% of respondents (n=671) said they had never used â€œone of the free alternatives to carrier-provided 411 directory assistanceâ€. And while Jingle 411 has some market share advantage in the remaining 24% of users, it is the larger group that will ultimately decide who wins in the disruptive Free 411 DA market. It is just this market that Google is targeting with the Thomson/GE deal.
The question for Thomson/GE is: why would they agree to the arrangement? Thomson/GE is not a corporation known for its easy going style and one assumes that they did not put the Goog-411 button on their phones for the warm and fuzzies of it. The April introduction date leaves me wondering if we might not see Goog-411 monetization in that timeframe.
The one current drawback to the Goog-411 service in a consumer setting is the lack of residential listings. This consumer driven deal with Thomson might just also imply a move by Google to add residential listings in the same timeframe.
From the goog411 Google Group
== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Sat, Dec 22 2007 4:43 pm
Goog411 has been sending me the same text message every 15 minutes for
2 hours now at 10 cents a message. This is the first time I have experienced this problem when receiving text messages from goog 411.
Who do I contact to stop the messages??
Thanks for your help in advance,
If it takes this poor fellow as long to resolve his problem as it is taking (9 months and counting) for this school to solve theirs (where you will also find some earlpearl’s of wisdom), his cell phone bill will roughly equal the national debt of Kazikstan by the end of the upcoming holiday week.
Reader, Bob Brenly, has pointed out that Goog-411 calls are now completed by bandwidth.com in both the US and Canada as announced on any Goog-411 call.
I am curious about this change. Have they switched call completion providers? Why is it necessary to declare the provider at all?
Google may be getting big, and they may do some evil but unlike Microsoft they can still manage to make me smile and even laugh with some of their marketing.
Goog-411 started adding a range of introduction voices in August (see The many voices of Goog411, dude!) including children’s voices and voices with distinctive accents. For today they recorded their newest Ghoulgler for the intro. If you don’t use Goog-411 regularly you may listen to this mp3 recording of a recent call:
Audio recording of the many voices of Goog411Some seem to adore Goog-411 (like the folks at the Goog-411 Group), Google’s voice activated directory service that uses Map data and some like Chris from NaturalSearch panned it.I fall in between those extremes and while I understand Chris’s criticism about Goog-411′s failings I use the service on a somewhat regular basis despite its annoyances:
â€¢It completes my calls thus offering hands free phone use
â€¢It works more than 80% of the time
It is fascinating to me to see Google’s Map data set being pushed out over a totally distinct network in a useful fashion although I doubt that the public will start using voice activated directory assistance for category searches in any great volume over the near term.
My usage habits are very entrenched in the city, business name model of directory assistance and I assume most consumers are as well. I suppose there is a certain cool factor that the service has and that the folks at the Goog-411 group go gaga over.Google seems to be making a bid to cater to that cool factor. They have recently changed their intro to the service which announces Goog-411 from a single male voice to a large variety of voices.
Some of them can be heard in the following compendium of voices recently recorded from dialing in to Goog 411:Audio recording of the many voices of Goog411