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Google buys Aardvark web service

Google Inc. has bought Aardvark, a free question-and-answer web service.

Aardvark co-founder Damon Horowitz confirmed the purchase Thursday. He would not disclose financial details.

Aardvark was formed in 2007 by Horowitz and three others — two of whom are former Google employees. It lets users ask questions online that are routed to friends and friends of friends. The goal is to get relevant answers on any topic as quickly as possible. Users can ask questions through Aardvark’s Web site, Twitter, over Google Chat or via e-mail. Aardvark had more than 90,000 users as of last October.

Buying Aardvark is the latest effort by Google to own more services — and capture more of people’s online time — rather than just linking to other sites.

The transaction returns Google to the question-and-answer field. In 2006, it abandoned Google Answers, a 4-year-old service through which users would pay anywhere from $2 to $200 to get answers to questions from hired researchers.

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