Saturday, December 02, 2006

Google Answers Disgoogled!

Cyber world is saddened to hear the news of the demise of Google Answers. From end of November no more new questions were posted, and researchers have until the end of December to answer whatever questions that are left unanswered or unexpired.

As many of you will know, Google Answers is a professional service that Google provided where people paid to have questions on any subject answered by professional researchers. There are approximately 500 Google researchers around the world. Linda is one of them, and the only one in the Middle East.

The announcement by Google to suspend this service has generated a lot of debate on the internet. You’ve only got to look at a couple of sites like Google's Blog
and Digg to see how various people have reacted to the news. A petition has been initiated to be signed and sent to Google to keep this service, which is highly valued and respected, alive.

Not taking it lying down!

Some people have interpreted this action by Google to be a surrender to Yahoo, MSN or Amazon, who provide an answer service for free. Others are not interested in getting free answers. They cite professionalism at Google Answers where there are long-standing, highly experienced, answerers whom they could trust.

Many people asked questions that were important to their lives and livelihoods. People placed their confidence in a Google Researcher when asking, for example, what are the chances of a certain type of cancer recurring after 5 years of remission, or asking for academic research purposes how many companies operating in Poland that were at least 51% owned by non-Polish investors.

On the rare occasion when a researcher gave an incorrect answer, Google provided a guarantee that people got their money refunded. The guarantee backed up by Google’s name and reputation meant something.

However, this closure has raised a number of concerns.
People’s confidence in Google is now shaken. The action Google took to suddenly, and without warning, close down a service has set a worrying precedent. Will Google suddenly and without warning close down Blogger or Picasa or Gmail?

Google is a multi-billion Company, how much did it really cost it to keep the Google Answers service operational. How much does it take to keep it running? How much would it have taken to promote it better? Alternatively, why didn’t Google offer this service up for sale instead of shutting it down?

This service was maintained by a small number of Editors, understood to be 4 or 5 personnel. It was almost a self-sustaining operation kept going by a group of pretty smart individuals, some of whom were experts in fields of law, medicine and other professions. Some of those researchers were incapacitated; others relied on Google Answers as their only source of income. Many, like Linda, had a lot of fun working on Google Answers. It was an addictive hobby that she loved. It was perfect for her: it was online, she worked from home whenever she wanted, and was able to make time for other things in her life.

A Google Answers Researchers Tools

Google Answers Researchers formed close friendships over the years although most of them have never met each other. For sure most of them will eventually find something else to do on the ‘net, but for now it’s sad to see this service disappear.

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