Blog Post

Google Answers Closes Shop (Extended Version)

The comparisons between the booming Yahoo Answers and the shuttering Google Answers (see our initial reporters’ log post from last night) are pretty stark. Google Answers wasn’t bad — it was an extremely cheap way to outsource random research questions and get a trustworthy result — but it never really took off. Furthermore, the product’s reliance on people didn’t fit with Google’s algorithmic ethos, so cutting it was an easy way to satisfy the company’s newfound desire to trim its product line.

Online community specialist Yahoo, on the other hand, made its own Answers product, released less than a year ago, open to the public and free of charge. The answers you’ll get on Yahoo are generally about as good as the unfiltered comments on a popular blog — definitely not professional-grade, but usually pretty useful in aggregate, with a few gems.

Yahoo PR just emailed to remind us Answers has accumulated 60 million users worldwide (14.4 million uniques in October according to comScore) and 160 million answers. We replied to ask how many of these users had answered questions. “It’s safe to say virtually all of the users have answered questions,” replied spokesperson Melissa Rische.

“Why – when you ask a question you lose points. In order to get points back you need to answer questions. Someone couldn’t only ask questions and stay in the system long. Plus, the real addicting part of Y! Answers is the question answering. Some of our top users who have more than 100,000 pts have only asked a few questions.”

In contrast, Google had a core of about 500 approved experts (800 total answerers over the product’s 4-year lifespan) who provided detailed, thoughtful responses to users’ questions. The experts were motivated by small fees and tips, and refined their answers if the person offering a bounty was unsatisfied.

This morning, Hitwise analyst Bill Tancer posted his firm’s breakdown of the marketshare of visits to Google Answers, Yahoo Answers, and Microsoft’s Live Q&A. Yahoo’s relative dominance is striking.

The common wisdom will tell you Yahoo is much better at creating community, and the common wisdom is right. Yahoo Answers is the simplest way out there to ask “the internet” for help, in natural language — another take on the Ask Jeeves of yore. At the same time, Google Answers had value that had nothing to do with community; it was more like one of those custom online term papers sites that was actually good. The similarity of the two products’ names is a bit misleading, but the comparison between them is telling.

13 Responses to “Google Answers Closes Shop (Extended Version)”

  1. Although it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges, the chart is striking. What I find interesting is that Yahoo has begun integrating their answers product into their search results. So, how will this move impact the Google vs Yahoo search engine wars? Will it compel more people to use Yahoo’s search product? The whole social media space is, obviously, quite popular right now, but I’m not sure how well that translates into search. I’d be more interested in seeing results integrated into search.

  2. Yahoo! Answers sucks. Plain and simple. I think it’s where America’s Meth-Addicted go when they’re on an Internet bend. Have you seen the juvenile and idiotic Q&A that Yahoo! hopes is content.
    It’s a great example of the shortcomings of UGC.

  3. In response to Google’s announcement that they are shutting down the Google Answers service, researchers have banded together to petition Google to keep GA alive. Please sign.
    Keep Google Answers Alive

    To: Google

    The Google Answers service has helped many people during its four and a half years of existence, and it continues to do so. Researchers and unpaid commenters formed a community which should not be discarded lightly. Many repeat users were able to easily find answers to difficult questions thanks to the service. Furthermore, Google Answers proved that a living could be made working on the Internet alone, as many researchers worked on the site as their sole source of income.

    We, the undersigned, believe that Google should continue to provide this valuable community service to the Internet.


    The Undersigned

  4. Yes; wide-ranging info quality or not, Yahoo Answers is a clear breakout success…but, because the press isn’t currently “big” on Yahoo (or Microsoft, for that matter), we’ll never see the kind of positive on- and off-line headlines and attention that media darling Google receives with their successful (or new) offerings…or much attention either to (let’s call it what it is, shall we) this Google failure.

    Unbalanced reporting via-a-vis Yahoo/Microsoft/Google?

    This is just one more example.

  5. Eli Arrington

    I don’t like the comparison between google-answers and hate the hitwise-graph which shows that “Yahoo’s relative dominance is striking”.

    Those are two different products: at yahoo, you get answers from normal people that answers according to their knowledge. At google-answers, someone (smart) sits and makes a (difficult) research for you, on a subject that (almost) nobody knows about. After spending time, s/he gives you credible information you can count on.