Google Buys Aardvark To Further Social Networking Agenda

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TechCrunch was the first news site to report on the acquisition, and also named the acquisition price, which has not been officially confirmed. TechCrunch had previously reported, in December, that Aardvark was mulling a $30 million acquisition offer from Google.

Aardvark was founded in 2007 by two former Google executives: Max Ventilla, who previously headed up Google's marketing initiatives for Adsense, and Nathan Stroll, who was in charge of Google News.

It's essentially a social search service, which means that unlike a regular search engine, Aardvark delivers search results in the form of customized answers from friends and social networking contacts. Users make a search query on Aardvark and Aardvark poses the query via a preferred type of message -- instant message or e-mail, for example -- to the users' contacts.

Aardvark may have foreshadowed the acquisition as recently at last week, when Aardvark CTO Damon Horowitz blogged in part about Google's influence. Horowitz suggested that an Aardvark research paper called "Anatomy of a Large-Scale Social Search Engine" was inspired by "Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine," which was penned 12 years ago by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

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The acquisition would seem to further Google's social networking agenda, which early this week saw the release of Google Buzz, Google's new social networking platform for Gmail. Buzz appears to be Google's answer to popular social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but the service has already raised red flags about privacy, and hasn't elicited more than a shrug from corporate enterprises.

Google has made a number of significant acquisitions in recent months (see: 12 Key Google Acquisitions), the most recent, before Aardvark, being display encryption services company reCAPTCHA. It spent much of 2009 not in acquisitions mode, but in an interview last fall, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Google would seek to acquire one small company a month.