Goog411 Has Served Its Purpose
Today Google announced that it will stop offering its free, automated directory assistance service (1-800-GOOG411), effective November 11. It’s hard to believe that it has been up and running for almost three years. It launched as a very disruptive force in the directory assistance community. In Google’s inimitable way, it offered for free a service for which other providers attached as high as a $3.00 per call charge. During those years, wireless DA services offered through incumbent carriers witnessed annual erosion in call volumes in the 30 percent range.
Now that the damage has been done, the question is “where will wireless subscribers go for free access to business listings?” Google notes that they can text their queries to 466453 (“GOOGLE”) or, for those with smartphones, use the “voice search” feature of the downloadable Google App. The blog post also notes that free calls directly to businesses can be initiated from the Gmail app on a smart phone.
This is the end of a phase in Google’s evolutionary approach to voice search. The company has long said that offering Goog411 provided a good mechanism for collecting a steady stream of utterances to help tune and refine its speech recognition engine (street names and business names are notoriously hard to “get right”). That work is complete. Apparently, providing “voice search”, “voice input” and “voice actions”, will provide sufficient new material to keep the underlying grammar both fresh and accurate.
Meanwhile, we’d expect some queries to return to traditional DA platform.s