2010 Google Faculty Summit: The Anatomy of a Large Scale Social Search Engine





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Published on Aug 3, 2010

Google Faculty Summit 2010
July 30, 2010


Presented by Damon Horowitz.

As our thinking about the web evolves from being document-centric to being people-centric, our thinking about search must evolve as well. It is no longer sufficient to organize and access the world's online information -- we must also consider how to organize and access the information that remains in peoples' heads.

We will discuss Aardvark, a social search engine acquired by Google in February 2010. Aardvark is motivated by the simple observation that sometimes you want a person, not a web page, to answer your question. With Aardvark, users ask a question, either by instant message, email, web input, text message, or voice. Aardvark then routes the question to the person in the user's extended social network most likely to be able to answer that question.

As compared to a traditional web search engine, where the challenge lies in finding the right document to satisfy a user's information need, the challenge in a social search engine like Aardvark lies in finding the right person to satisfy a user's information need. Further, while trust in a traditional search engine is based on authority, in a social search engine like Aardvark, trust is based on intimacy. I will describe how these considerations inform the architecture, algorithms, and user interface of Aardvark, and how they are reflected in the behavior of Aardvark users.


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