Google pulling plug on Fast Flip, shutting Aardvark

Internet giant Google said Friday that it is pulling the plug on its online news reader Fast Flip and closing Aardvark, a "social search" service it bought last year.

Google said it is winding down Fast Flip, which was unveiled in September 2009, and shutting down Aardvark as part of the closure announced last month of its experimental test bed Google Labs.

"With the winding down of Google Labs, the Google Fast Flip project will also be winding down," Google said a brief message on the Google Labs website.

"We will begin removing Fast Flip from Google News and Labs in the coming days," the Mountain View, California-based company said.

"For the past two years, the Fast Flip experiment has fueled a new approach to faster, richer content display on the Web - which will live on in our other display and delivery tools," Google said.

"We want to thank the dozens of participating US publishers for their collaboration with us in pioneering news content browsing and reading experiences for the Web and mobile devices," it said.

Google partners on Fast Flip include The New York Times, the BBC, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and other publications.

Other companies supplying content include magazines such as the Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Marie Claire and Popular Mechanics, as well as online news sites TechCrunch, Salon and Slate.

Fast Flip allows users to browse through news stories from Google's media partners at speeds significantly faster than the time it usually takes to load a Web page.

Aardvark co-founders Max Ventilla and Damon Horowitz said in a blog post entitled "Goodbye Aardvark" that the service will shut down at the end of September.

Google acquired Aardvark, which was founded in 2007, in February of last year for a purchase price put at $50 million by technology blog TechCrunch.

Aardvark uses the contacts in a person's network to provide answers to questions via the Web at Vark.com, instant messaging, email or Twitter.

"Aardvark began as a small experiment in a new kind of social search, and over a few years blossomed into a service that made millions of connections between people to answer each other's questions," Ventilla and Horowitz said.

"Over this time, we learned a lot about creating and maintaining online communities, and how to facilitate sharing of knowledge between people," they said. "We've been excited to share these lessons within Google over the past year, especially as part of the effort behind Google+"

Google+ is the social network launched by the Internet giant in June.

Ventilla and Horowitz said the Aardvark team "remains committed to developing powerful tools for connecting people and improving access to information."

The announcement of the closure of Fast Flip and Aardvark comes a week after Google said it was shutting down Slide, a developer of applications for social networks it bought a year ago.

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