Google has decided to shut down 800-GOOG-411, their free business directory assistance service. The service will close after November 11.
The company entered the free 411 market, directly challenging 800-FREE-411 and other similar tools. Google’s service tapped into their Google Local directory listings, offering free calling to long distance businesses. Many have used GOOG-411 as a Friends & Family number, in order to get free calls to most business numbers.
The company has cited internal competition of Google’s tools as the main reason for shutting down GOOG-411. Since the launch of the service, Google has rolled out voice searching on Windows Mobile, iOS, and Android platforms. Google also points to the service as drawing away from other tools such as Google’s SMS short code (466453, or GOOGLE) for local search results.
Similar to Google’s shutdown of Google Answers however, the competition does not appear to see this as a reason to shut down their services. Bing continues to offer free directory assistance using 800-BING-411.
The shutdown of GOOG-411 may be more telling about Google’s strategy, than anything else. The company may have struggled monetizing phone search results, most ads that ran on GOOG-411 were for Google’s own services. In addition, it may point to Google identifying that most GOOG-411 users may have opted to use a different Google search tool anyways, or another free 411 tool.
Finally, the shutdown of GOOG-411 may also point to Google conceding the market to rival Bing. Bing 411 already offers several features that may have been costly for Google to implement, including turn by turn directions, traffic reports, movie times, and weather.