Superpod, another “answer engine” has been acquired by Google, predominately for the team, for about $60 million, according to published reports. Superpod matched both audience questions and expert answers across a broad range of topics.
A statement acknowledging the acquisition on the Superpod site said, “We are sad to announce that we will be closing Superpod today as part of a transition into a larger project. We can’t share any details at this time, but we’re trekking onwards toward the same north star and are very excited about the future.”
There are reports that speculate Superpod’s founders and assets will be deployed in a way that could improve Google Assistant. For $60 million, whatever Superpod is used for, it would be for more than just adding more people to the Assistant team.
Superpod built the infrastructure for an expert community that could be used in multiple ways within Google or as part of a new social Q&A initiative of some kind.
William Li and Sophia Yang started the company by two former Google employees in roughly 2016. The mobile Q&A app promised “Pods of experts in every topic, responsive within an hour.”
The idea behind Superpod isn’t exactly original, as “answer engines” or “social search engines” have been in existence since the early 2000s in various forms. Some of these include:
- Aardvark (acquired by Google)
- Answers.com (still here)
- Askville (Amazon-owned, shuttered)
- ChaCha (shuttered)
- Facebook Q&A (shuttered)
- Jelly (acquired by Pinterest)
- Keen (pivoted, acquired)
- MerchantCircle Q&A (shuttered)
- Microsoft Q&A, Bing Social (both shuttered)
- Mosio (pivoted)
- Quora (still here)
- Replyz (shuttered)
- Rewarder (shuttered)
- Text411/kgb (shuttered)
- Yahoo Answers (still here)
- Among others
We know that humans can answer questions than any algorithm can, but yet the vast majority of such initiatives failed to attract any significantly sized army.
Expert platforms and communities had been created several times before by Google. back in 2011, the company had to shut down it’s Wikipedia-like expert community, Knol, as well as the more recent closure of Google Helpouts, a platform for finding and paying for expert advice or tutorials.