Aardvark, a San Francisco-based startup that touts a web-based answer service, today released a similar application for the iPhone that will let you ask friends in your social graph questions on topics, such as recommended restaurants or books, and receive answers directly from your Apple handset.
The philosophy behind the service is that your friends have a wealth of knowledge you can tap into, and Aardvark helps you conduct a search of these peers to find answers to your questions. This makes it stand apart from web services like Yelp and Yahoo Answers, where you rely on the advice and opinions of people you don’t know. The free iPhone application uses Facebook Connect and lets you send questions via IM. By tapping into the iPhone’s GPS capabilities, the app can automatically tag your current location to any question you ask. By doing so, Aardvark can ask people in the same neighborhood or city as you questions about that area. Another competitor in the space is GoodRec, a recommendation site that also has an iPhone app and lets people ask their friends for reviews on various products and locations.
After downloading Aardvark to your iPhone, the app’s main page has a box where you can type in your question and send it to friends who are knowledgeable about a specific topic, such as bars or travel. Aardvark analyzes your question to figure out who to send it to, then searches for people who are available in your network to answer it. It starts searching through your friends first, and if none of them are available, starts reaching out to friends of friends. The company, which was founded by ex-Googlers, told me that the number of people on the Aardvark network is so robust, any question you submit can be answered in five minutes. Skeptical, I used the app to ask about reliable cab companies in San Francisco, and received an answer — albeit from people I didn’t know directly — in less than five minutes. I tried this out very early in the morning, so I bet I would have received an answer quicker if I asked my question later in the day.
The 25-person startup received $6 million in Series A funding in September 2008, led by August Capital. Baseline Ventures also participated in the round. Though Aardvark only has Facebook integration for now, the company said it will start integrating Twitter into the service within the next three months.