Yahoo! Beats Google in Answers Game

My take on a month-plus old retirement of Google Answers.

Someone’s loss means somebody else’s gain. This is one of the few incidences I noticed where Google’s innovation did not pan out as planned. I could not even tell you which is another one. Google Answers was decommissioned late last year while Yahoo! Answers continues to grow.

(Yahoo! was bold enough to use the same exact product name, unlike Flickr vs Picasa for instance.)

Google Answers employed a model that instills quality responses to serious questions posted. Well, not all questions are serious but the system boasts of 500 researchers screened by Google to answer whatever forms of questions, ranging from locating a rare 1967 music album to procedures on expert Canon SLR camera maintenance.

A minimum fee of US$2.50 will be charged for every question. The asking party can offer a higher amount for a question that’s relatively difficult to answer or a reply is urgently needed. 75% of the fee will go to the researchers and the remaining amount goes to Google. Those whose questions are answered can also place tips for a satisfactory response. It is rare that Google charges for its services. I can’t imagine how to properly interpret web reports if Google Analytics charges an amount beyond what I can shell out.

Questions will be answered typically within the 24 hours and obviously questions that are priced higher will likely get a quicker response. But perhaps Google wants to focus on more diverse and exciting projects that’s why it decided to stop accepting questions. Yes, Google Answers still has an archive of questions and answers. Maybe the way the process is done did not benefit researchers well. It could have allowed students to depend on this system by posting assignment questions for a minimal fee. It was also subject to abuse. Questions can be asked with some amount of money used as bait but no matter how the researcher explains the topic the seeker perpetually rebuffs it and asks for refund.

Launched in December 2005, Yahoo! Answers is pretty simple. You go to the site not necessarily to ask question but you can also answer some outstanding questions or scour some of the most interesting questions you don’t really mind knowing the reply. Using star ratings and point rewards as incentives instead of monetary equivalent, there is fairness in the game. Naturally, people are willing to help and feel good when appreciated. Wikipedia thrived because of human effort to disseminate information without regard for the time spent online expecting nothing in return. Same should go for Yahoo! Answers whose celebrity questions from stars like Cindy Crawford, John Woo and Bono only add to the excitement of getting rid of that big question mark.