Kara Swisher

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Aardvark Confirms It Has Been Acquired, but Not by What Company (But It’s Google)


Aardvark, the social search engine that has been the subject of much attention since it was founded in late 2007, confirmed that it has been acquired.

“We can confirm that we signed a deal to be acquired,” wrote CEO Max Ventilla in an email to BoomTown this morning.

But Ventilla would not reveal the buyer, which a report by TechCrunch earlier this morning said is Google (GOOG), for $50 million.

The Silicon Valley search giant has since confirmed that it is the buyer. “We have signed a definitive agreement to acquire Aardvark, but we don’t have any additional details to share right now,” said the company in a statement.

There have been other possible suitors along with Google, from Facebook to Yahoo (YHOO) to Microsoft (MSFT) to IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI), which gave the San Francisco-based start-up a serious look-see to differentiate that company’s lagging Ask search service.

The 30-person Aardvark has raised a total of $6 million from August Capital and others to perfect and distribute its service.

It uses social networks, such as Facebook, to get relevant answers via email and instant messaging. It also has a Web version.

In many ways, Aardvark is yet another version of the iconic Six Degrees, mixed with Yahoo Answers or expert sites, a cup of Twitter-like sociability, and completed with a big dollop of algorithmic calculation.

Its founders, including Max Ventilla and Damon Horowitz, worked at Google and wanted to try to solve the problem of data that cannot be easily reduced to a keyword query.

At least that’s the goal of the innovative Aardvark.

Here is a recent video interview I did with Ventilla and Horowitz, in which they tried their best not to answer the potentially multimillion-dollar question about being bought.

The video also includes a tour of Aardvark, whose offices are, of course, called the Mechanical Zoo: