Andrew Fikes and Lexi Baugher post on the Official Google Blog that Google Answers will stop taking questions and effectively shut down.
Google Answers was a clever but unpopular site where you could ask any question and have it investigated by a small group of professional researchers. Fees were quite high, so the audience was fairly limited. Moreover, it always seemed out of place with Google's normal tendency to focus on automated solutions.
In light of this shutdown, I think it is worthwhile to compare Google Answers to some of the other question answering services out there.
Danny Sullivan has a thoughtful post comparing the now defunct Google Answers to the more successful and free Yahoo Answers. Like Danny, I have been surprised by the relative success of Yahoo Answers given the low quality of both the questions and the answers.
Another interesting comparison is with the fledgling Askville and NowNow question answering services from Amazon. Those services appear to be trying to blend Google Answers (tens of dollars for answers from experts) with Yahoo Answers (free for answers from idiots); Askville and NowNow use Mechanical Turk and will charge under a dollar for answers. I am curious to see if these Amazon Q&A services succeed, or if the lesson from Google Answers is that people are not willing to pay for answers regardless of quality.
Gary Price also reminds us that Ask Jeeves had a Q&A service called Answer Point that they shut down in 2002. It apparently was similar to Yahoo Answers and was free. That may suggest that we should not conclude that the free model of Yahoo Answers is better, but that none of these community-based question answering services, whether free or not free, have legs.
On a slight tangent, I think it is great that Google is shutting down some of its failed experiments to try to keep their focus. Just last week, I was lamenting the amount of failed and failing features on Google, Yahoo, and Amazon and wrote, "Old products never die, but they should. To innovate, it is not enough to love creation. We must also love destruction."
See also my previous posts ( ) about Yahoo Answers.
Update: See also Brady Forrest's thoughts over at O'Reilly Radar.
Update: See also Nick Carr's post, "The five Google products".