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November 29, 2006

The Failure of Google Answers

Google Answers, the service where you could ask questions in exchange of a sum of money, is now officially dead. "We considered many factors in reaching this difficult decision, and ultimately decided that the Answers community's limited size and other product considerations made it more effective for us to focus our efforts on other ways to help our users find information."

The problem? While Google Answers is almost invisible, Yahoo Answers is a big success, produces results for many search results page and has a big community. The big difference between the two services is that Yahoo Answers doesn't involve money: no one pays or gets paid. But, as I showed in Asking the Internet, "while Google's researchers give more detailed answers, Yahoo uses the advantage of having a strong community" and sorts the good answers.

So what happened to Google Answers? Let's see what Google Answers experts have to say:

"The quality of GA has become diluted with spam questions that are conceivably attempts from credit card thieves to verify the validity of stolen credit card numbers, webmasters realizing that a mention of their website in a GA question may boost their ranking in the search results (although this may have been resolved), and the disappearance of researchers."

"It would be nice to think that G-A has itself reduced the demand for search assistance by demonstrating how to search and how to use search features that are not immediately obvious to the layman/woman). But it could be that people have just become more savvy to the system by themselves."

"I think a big problem is that there is no obvious link to GA anymore from Google's homepage."

"Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they're not accepting new researchers? I answered two questions (correctly, I might add -- one $5 and one $20) before I realized that I had to be a "researcher" in order to submit an actual answer (as opposed to a comment) and get paid for it."

The problem seem to be that people don't want to pay some experts to get detailed answers, they just want simple answers from the man on the street. People don't have time to read books, newspapers with a lot of pages and long articles, but they're eager to watch reality shows. Listening people as clueless as you gives you a comforting feeling.


  1. What a bad excuse for Google to blame this on "the Answers community's limited size", as they completely stopped linking to and promoting their own site! No wonder it's "limited" in size.

    By the way, that quote was from an email to researchers, not the official Google blog post.

  2. 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


  3. Here's a chart that compares Yahoo Answers, Google Answers and Live QnA in terms of US traffic (source: Hitwise).

  4. Yep, and Yahoo is advertising their Q&A service like crazy... linking to it from the homepage, from German billboards, and even web results.

  5. I agree with John, i read one website that showed a great difference between the two. Someone asked about the possibility of getting source code from a government body under the freedom of information act. A google researcher gave the perfect answer.

    The guy mentioned that if he had said the same thing to yahoo he would have been lucky to have seen something as intelligent as "source code lol".

    It really sums it up!

  6. While I understand the business decision behind Google's cop-out of the Answers market it still saddens me.

    This is a clear case of mismanagement of information and choosing the wrong target market.

    GA was had the potential to be the strongest tool for overworked university students in need of help with research heavy assignemnts. Counter to that it had the greatest potential to be the "rent-maker" for those underworked university students.

    Put a $90k a year visionary behind GA and let him hire a small team of cheap screeners and bring the product back as the universal students' tool.

    Thanks for the help in B-school.

  7. Put a $90k a year visionary behind GA and let him hire a small team of cheap screeners and bring the product back as the universal students' tool.


    I can't recall ever seeing a Yahoo Answer response that I thought was worth a damn.

    On the other hand, I've seen Google Answers responses that were nothing short of jaw dropping.

    I was trying to find out how to use Excel/VBA to automate Internet Explorer to send a GET form request to download non-POST responses into a spreadsheet.

    Talk about a narrowly scoped advanced topic!

    And there it was. On Google Answers. The responder even gave a spreadsheet with completely functional VBA code that used SSL to send data over a secure connection. Wow!

    Gah. The death of Google Answers makes me sick to my stomach.

  8. Even now, almost three years after Google cut its Answers service, I am still in mourning. How could such a great concept, and such an amazing service, go away? Before the invention of Google Answers, I always wished there was a body of experts to whom I could cheaply send off a complicated question, and get a swift, precise, and helpful response. Google answered my dreams, and I've always felt that Google is good at that...unlike other big companies, they really understand their users...they just GET it.

    Perhaps Google could sell their scripts and business plans to another individule or company who would be willing to restore such a wonderful service...

  9. @Jeremy:
    Try Uclue, "a fee-based research service staffed by former Google Answers Researchers".

  10. Yahoo answers... I would be ashamed of having my name associated to those answers...

    Uclue seems to be pretty good (just did couple of checks...). Loved Google Answers. Thank you Alex!

  11. Google answers failed because it was paid, obviously people would spam answers and spam questions to get the two dollars.
    There is nothing in the net could be compared Yahoo answers ... it's fast, reliable, and the points system is just great also there is no spamming, vulgar or racial expressions .. just perfect.
    Google should stop imitation other's works and I recommend them to drop Google operating System, Google chrome browser and Google wave cuz it will fail exactly as the stupid google answers.

  12. Condoor, you are A fail.

  13. No, he's not "Anonymous"...condoor has a very good point. Who wants to pay for an answer service when there's a free one at Yahoo? Sure it's not as high quality, but no one's enticed to spam for 2 dollars like on Google.

    Condoor obviously has a few misguided opinions, like that the Google chrome browser will fail (as we can see it gained a decent market share in the past couple years) but other products like Google+ simply aren't able to compete. Yes I'm sure Google Answers was higher quality, but its lack of ability to compete efficiently led to its failure.

  14. So, what is the best answers service and free at that in the net?

  15. Yahoo Answers is damn sure NOT the place to get technical computer help. Having repaired computers for 30+ years, the inane answers by idiots leading people in the WRONG direction and actually costing the asker more money in the end makes it a total joke. I spent years offering tech help in Yahoo Answers. 95% of the answers people post are as wrong as an answer could be.


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