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Google Communications Technology

Google To Shut Down 411 Service 156

taco8982 writes "After three years of providing free directory assistance in exchange for voice samples, Google has announced plans to shut down the GOOG-411 service, in order to focus on 'speech-enabling the next generation of Google products and services across a multitude of languages.' The service will close on November 12th."
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Google To Shut Down 411 Service

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  • what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:22PM (#33840976)
    Never even heard of it. I wonder how many dozens of obscure Google services there are out there
    • Re:what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by ajrs ( 186276 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:24PM (#33841000) Homepage

      Never even heard of it. I wonder how many dozens of obscure Google services there are out there

      If only there were some automated tool to find them all. A search engine, if you will....

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Ahhh, this the worst thing since they shutdown GOOG-976!

    • Re:what? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Donniedarkness ( 895066 ) * <Donniedarkness AT gmail DOT com> on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:25PM (#33841012) Homepage
      I had actually started using it last month. It's amazingly useful. RIP :(
      • Re:what? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bev_tech_rob ( 313485 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @06:38PM (#33841616)
        Agreed! I used it alot instead of shelling out $1.50 for 411 calls via Verizon..... crap....
        • I've known about it for a couple years. Never used it. Never really thought about it because I always used the web based yellow/white pages.

      • by treeves ( 963993 )
        My wife and I have been using for quite some time. Can't remember where I learned about it, but it's quite handy, and we'll miss it. Thing is, you can find stuff with it while you're driving, and there's no replacement for that, except now she'll probably call me and ask me to google stuff more often while she's driving.
        • There's an alternative free info service you can use - I've used it for a while and it seems to have the same tech running as the for-fee telco 411 services..

          800-555-TELL - company is


      • I've used it for months (years?). A killer pro tip was to put it on bluetooth dial in your car. Then you could just say "call Google" and then it was all voice commands to connect to anyone. Truly awesome...

    • I have, it was actually a pretty cool service. Given the way it was setup, it even enable free long distance/payphone calling. You'd call 800-GOOG411 and explain who/what you were looking for. It'd then connect you.
      • by carlzum ( 832868 )
        Yeah, it is a great service. It's one of the only automated attendant experiences that I preferred over a human operator. Every time I suffer through a clunky, annoying IVR when I call my bank or cable company, I wonder why they can't do it as well as Google's free service. Maybe the answer is, Google blew a lot of money on it and couldn't (or didn't want to) sustain it any longer.
        • No, Google blew a lot of money on it to gather lots of real voice samples.

          They've got them now, so now they have other plans.

          • by carlzum ( 832868 )
            I'm OK with that if it means I'll never look like a lunatic yelling at my phone in public again.

            RESIDENTIAL!!! I live in a fucking house!!!
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by AhabTheArab ( 798575 )

      Seems that the people who knew about it and used it actually liked the service. I used to use it, particularly when driving cross country. It was very handy to be able to find a motel in an upcoming city and be connected so I could make reservations. Texting while driving is becoming illegal in many states. Also, voice service is more reliable than data service in many parts of the country.

      I haven't used GOOG-411 for quite some time, but it was nice to have available as on option. All in all, not too big of

    • by ocdude ( 932504 ) [] has a list of all of the google products out there, and even lets you filter by area of interest or search.
    • by ajs ( 35943 )

      There are a ton of Google services. I think the ones that would
      surprise most people are:

      Then of course, there's their non-Web site features. For example,
      they have a VC group called Google Ventures; a whole series of public
      policy and government-related initiatives such as their work with enabling []
      public Q&A and CitizenTube [], YouTube's public
      policy blog about "developing trends in the use of YouTube by news
      organizations, activists, politicians, and g

    • I've actually got a landline phone with a Goog-411 button on it that dials it. I've never used it, though. I might have to use it before it goes away just to check it out.
    • GOOG-411 is actually one of their better services. It's a shame that they're scraping it and replacing it with some stupid mobile apps of dubious value. If I have a good enough connection to pull data from the web I can just Google the damn thing anyway. GOOG-411 is good because any crappy old phone can handle it even with a pretty bad signal and it's easy to understand. It's like the 411 we already are familiar with except it actually finds the right information for you and doesn't charge you a small fortu

  • Smartphones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:25PM (#33841014) Homepage

    It seems like smartphones are making voice calls obsolete. GOOG-411 is a victim of []

    • Re:Smartphones (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Yocto Yotta ( 840665 ) <[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:50PM (#33841252)
      Hardly. When driving, I'd use voice activation to dial GOOG411 and be able to connect to any publicly listed number I desire without laying another finger on my phone. That's all sorts of awesome I can't do any other way right now. Well, for free anyhow.
      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        Tell Me [] still offers similar free services, including (AFAICT) the basic directory lookups and dialing that GOOG-411 offered.


        That said, I used to use GOOG-411 quite a lot before I got a Droid, but even now I still occasionally refer to it because it is both easy and hands-free.

        'Twill be missed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GweeDo ( 127172 )

      It is far more a victim of Google Voice Search on Android 2.2. The fact that I can say to my phone "Call Linex in Olathe, KS" and three seconds later it is dialing is simply to fantastic. The GOOG411 experiment gave them the testing they needed to make it a full fledge smartphone service that is only a small part of Voice Search.

      • Yep, I was going to say the same thing. It hasn't shut down, it's been built in and made exclusive to Android. Smart move of Google - they are differentiating Android by making their services just too good to live without.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      What about GOOG419^WGmail?

  • Sad day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AaxelB ( 1034884 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:25PM (#33841020)
    I for one am sad about this. I'm one of those holdouts who still doesn't have a (i|g|smart)phone, so it was nice to be able to call Google up to contact the restaurant I want to get reservations at, or anything like that. I can understand why they canceled it (they get way more voice data from Google Voice, I'm sure), but still, I'm a bit sad.

    Maybe I'll finally get a more intelligent phone now...
  • Nuance and IBM (Score:2, Informative)

    Nuance and IBM hold so many patents in the voice recognition field it's not even funny. With MS suing Android for things as innocuous as "syncing", I wonder what, if anything, Google is doing to protect or aid handset makers from this type of litigation. As I mentioned before in a previous post, a simple list showing all applicable patents and necessary licenses would help give a heads up to Android device makers.

    • With MS suing Android for things as innocuous as "syncing"...

      No, MS is suing Motorola. Within that suit are listed patents that may or may not apply to other Android implementations. Which may or may not mean Google has the information to make such a simple list.

      • You're right. Moto, not Android. My typing got ahead of me.

        The problem still is that Android is getting all these cool features, but it seems to be up to the OEM itself to determine what, if any, licenses need to be licensed. As much as I dislike Microsoft and think that their "indemnification" sales pitch is a load of crap, seeing them going after Moto is a bit disconcerting.

        • As much as I dislike Microsoft and think that their "indemnification" sales pitch is a load of crap, seeing them going after Moto is a bit disconcerting.

          The big question is why Motorola? Why not Google? I know Motorola implemented some of their own code in their products. For example, when I got my Droid, I could sync the corporate Exchange server out of the box. I had a separate email and calendar app for Exchange than Google email and calendaring. My co-workers (G1 and a Nexus One after seeing us enjoy our phones) bought 3rd party apps. So while the lawsuit is naming the Droid2, I have to wonder if it's something Motorola's done with their devices t

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            My guess (and it's only a guess) is that the syncing software was low hanging fruit for MS. Moto included something that they shouldn't have, and to make a point MS sued them. The point, of course, being that it's DANGEROUS to use Android and it's a PATENT MINEFIELD because no one really knows what's in it and MICROSOFT WILL INDEMNIFY YOU if you use WinMo.

            The thing with HTC seems to be more related to the revenge of a spurned lover than anything else. With Moto, though, the goal seems to be about increasing

          • Could be war by proxy, but the logic here is probably that Google will fight on its own behalf to the death for Android, as Oracle is about to find out, and it's more productive to scare the handset makers into not wanting to use Android. In this regard, whoever is calling these shots at Microsoft seems smarter than Larry Ellison.

            • In this regard, whoever is calling these shots at Microsoft seems smarter than Larry Ellison.

              I agree with your initial point, re: war by proxy. But on Ellison's intelligence, it's probably more a matter of goals. Microsoft needs to salt the earth for Android (and Linux in general) as it is taking the market niche Microsoft wants. Sun / Oracle is more interested in protection / maintaining control over Java. These very different goals can mean vastly different strategies and targets.

          • The big question is why Motorola? Why not Google?

            In February of 2009, Google licensed Microsofts syncing tech and then introduced Google>
            At the time, the list then also included Apple, Nokia, Palm, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Note the absence of Motorola.

            From a Microsoft Press Release []

            "Google's licensing of these Microsoft patents relating to the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol is a clear acknowledgment of the innovation taking place at Microsoft. This agreement is also a great example of Microsoft' s openness to generally licens

            • Very good point. What I find interesting is that Google used the ActiveSync protocol for their own services. The license doesn't appear to be intended for compatibility with Exchange. This has me pondering two points.

              First, does compatibility come in to play? Implementing ActiveSync on one's own server is one thing. But is it the same as using it to talk to someone else's server that's using that protocol? Unfortunately, I don't think there's any fair use provisions in patent law which is why patents

  • Used to use this all the time before I got my android. Sure kept my crappy LG phone somewhat relevant.

    • Re:Actually... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:42PM (#33841176) Journal

      Yeah, if you have an Android phone, Goog-411 becomes kind of redundant, as the phone has built-in voice search from Google - one touch on the icon, then speak what I want, and up it pops in the built-in browser. Can even use the maps feature to locate what you want at a convenient location without having to actually know where such-and-such street is (that is, Goog - 411 would give you a list of results, with addresses, but what if you don't already know where all those addresses are? Sure nice to see them on a map).

      However, not everyone has a smart phone, and it really is a shame that the service will no longer be available for them - I used to use Goog-411 pretty frequently before getting my G1. I'm afraid just not enough people knew about Goog-411. Or perhaps they were happy with the number of users, but just decided it cost too much and as a company, didn't provide any revenue. "Free" things don't usually seem to last forever - you need *some* kind of revenue to support any service, no matter how cheap it is to provide it to the customers. Since they didn't make you listen to an ad, there was no apparent revenue stream (well, sometimes I do remember hearing something like this service brought to you by, or something like that, so perhaps they got a little revenue from that).

      • Yeah, there are other similar services out there but you have to sit through an add or a couple of adds. That and the voice recognition is not nearly as good, and often the results are bunk.

      • It was a fairly inexpensive way to collect a LOT of voices saying things over and over again. That was the payoff.
  • Sad Day! (Score:5, Informative)

    by odin84gk ( 1162545 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:27PM (#33841046)

    Goog411 was amazing! No ads, good results. Thankfully I have a smartphone, but there were still times that Goog411 was faster than using my smartphone.

    I guess I will go back to 1-800-Free411

    • Re:Sad Day! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ReallyEvilCanine ( 991886 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:53PM (#33841290) Homepage
      It was free because they spent money to provide you a service in exchange for the voice clip they got from you. When you get stuff for free, it's not because you're the customer; you're the product.
      • They were buying voice clips and paying in service.

      • It was free because they spent money to provide you a service in exchange for the voice clip they got from you. When you get stuff for free, it's not because you're the customer; you're the product.

        So... I guess I'm supposed to think of that as a bad thing?

        I use an awesome free service that's only free so that my participation can be used to make other free services more awesome. What's the problem here?

    • I am an immigrant, with an obscure accent, and it always worked perfectly for me. A great service, that will be sorely missed.

      Please reconsider, Mr G!

  • The blog says now all you need to do is send a txt message to 466453 (google) with name and city and state.

    It's easier that way, at least with a cell phone.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by demonlapin ( 527802 )
      That's great, if you have 1) a cell phone 2) with a texting plan, and 3) you aren't driving. Cell phones don't always get reception, texting a la carte is expensive, and even where it's legal you shouldn't do it on the road.
      • Exactly. My wife uses GOOG411 all the time while driving. She thinks phone books and address books are obsolete. She's quite verbal and likes small flip phones, so no keyboard or smartphone.

        Given her tendency to use $1.29/call 411 services before GOOG411, I think Google ought to target people like me with $5/mo plans.

    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      i used google sms for years on my old nokia 1100, it easilly outperformed smartphones from a couple years ago
    • How is this easier?

      Voice method:

      1. Dial 1-800-Goog-411 (hey, speed dial is just one button!)
      2. Speak name of City and State and Name
      3. Hear info, have Google send it as a text message with voice command, or even dial it for you.

      Text method:

      1. Open text message editor.
      2. Type name of City, State, and Name (and we all know how useful T9 isn't for uncommon people names and business names that are not common nouns.
      3. Send text message to Google (requires typing number or finding in phone's memory). (extra messaging charges may a
  • I love Goog-411. I use it at least once a week. While it may be flaky on the voice recognition more than I'd like, it's usually pretty good.

  • I wonder if there is a way to reprogram the Goog-411 buttons on the cordless phones that have them, such as this [] one.
    • I was in a store recently, and my eye caught a cheap DECT phone, and I was thinking of buying it, but decided I should research DECT first. Turns out it has weak encryption which has already been broken. So, you should just throw that phone away anyhow. *grin* Well, at least, don't use it for any sensitive communications.

      Unforunately, GSM was recently 'broken' too, so there doesn't seem to be too much left in the way of secure wireless comms - maybe some sort of VoIP with TLS or AES crypto or something (see

      • by Magada ( 741361 )

        There's always PGPfone. Some assembly required, but I bet you could make it work on any smartphone.

      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        Yeah, like anybody would care about what encryption is used by the wireless interface, while setting up data recording at the carrier (like anybody without such legal means would care about you when practically everybody around have mobile phones). Like some bug in the place where you talk / in the phone was hard.

        Do you feel more paranoid already?

      • I was in a store recently, and my eye caught a cheap DECT phone, and I was thinking of buying it, but decided I should research DECT first. Turns out it has weak encryption which has already been broken. So, you should just throw that phone away anyhow. *grin* Well, at least, don't use it for any sensitive communications.

        If you've got enemies sophisticated enough to break the encryption, you probably should stick to either corded phones or a whole-house faraday cage. Because an enemy sophisticated enough t

  • Just got a Droid 2 and was transferring my old phone numbers over. I had just transferred the Google 411 number, and then jumped on Slashdot and determined I shouldn't bother!

    It was nice to have, even though I suppose it's not as necessary with a smartphone. Still, cheaper than calling 411 on my carrier!

    So long and thanks for all the fish!


  • by assemblerex ( 1275164 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:45PM (#33841198)
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Damn you Tommy Tutone.

  • That service was really nifty, especially inthe days of dumb phones. Oh, well. It'll be missed.

  • Use it all the time (Score:3, Informative)

    by gregraven ( 574513 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:58PM (#33841326) Homepage
    I had a bad feeling about Google 411. It used to be one of the options when you called your own Google Voice account -- you pressed 2 to find the number you wanted. Then Google deleted it out of Google Voice without any notification that I ever saw. I use it all the time with my old "dumb" cell phone. It's a great service, and I'll be sad to see it go.
  • The service stopped working for me a couple months ago.
  • by BcNexus ( 826974 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @06:36PM (#33841604)
    In other words, google is making it a lot more complicated and inconvenient. My current WinMo phone does this better. Let's compare.

    Currently, if I want to reach a company, I use one type of interaction: voice interaction. It goes like this:
    1. I tell my phone, "Call GOOG 411." My phone asks me if I want to call "GOOG 411" or whatever and gives me a chance to confirm or correct myself.
    2. I ask GOOG 411 for "Company X, Anytown USA"
    3. I listen to the results. Google gives me a chance to verify them and correct myself.
    4. I say which result I want. Google calls the business for me.
    All that without taking my eyes off of what I'm doing (walking, driving, doing the dishes, taking out the trash).

    Soon, when I want to reach a company, I'll have to do a more complicated routine:
    1. Launch Voice Search (VS for short).
    2. Ask for "Company X, Anytown USA."
    3. Voice Search terminates.
    4. To review the results on the screen, I have to take my eyes off what I am doing.
    5. If they're incorrect, I'm out of luck. My current VS session has ended and I need to start over.
    6. Assuming I found what I wanted, I try to remember the phone number of the business I want to reach.
    7. I launch Voice Actions (VA for short).
    8. I tell Voice Actions to dial the ten digit number I've hopefully remembered.
    9. VA doesn't ask me if it understood me correctly. I watch the screen to see if has. If VA got it wrong, I have to launch VA again.

    This is ridiculous. Notice how Google has made me take twice as many steps to reach a business. Notice how Google is forcing me to mix three types of interaction: -Voice interaction to initiate search and make the call
    -Screen viewing to check the results
    -Touch interaction to scroll through the results

    What a step back in functionality this is! I hope Google is paying attention and fixes this. Until they do, I have good reason to stick with my WinMo phone. It does hands-free stuff better.
  • Now that google has got all the free data they need, they can shut down the service and encourage people to buy more smartphones. It's really a shame, but not unexpected from any company; I was hoping for better from google.

    Figures, just after I convinced my father to stop using the telco 411 (and paying the $$$) and to use GOOG-411.

  • What do you think about open sourcing that voice recognition software? Goodness know OS needs it.
    • > What do you think about open sourcing that voice recognition software?

      Who is going to pay the patent royalties?

  • I set it up on customers phone systems when they didn't want to pay for real 411 service. Dialing 411 or any other such directory assistance number would actually dial the 1800 number to google 411... oh well...
  • I think what a lot of people are missing is that this was never intended to be a continuing or for-profit service for Google. They *only* set this service up to collect voice data to improve speech recognition.

    Now that they have the data they needed, they're closing it down.

    Sounds pretty crystal clear to me.

  • This was a great tool for calling businesses while driving, Google would even text the matching result if I wanted a record on my phone. I think I would even be willing to pay a small monthly/per-use fee for this service, as long as it's under $2/call current AT&T directory assistance rip-off.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle