back to article Google shuts down GOOG-411 voice data honeypot

Google is pulling the plug on 1-800-GOOG-411, the free voice-powered directory assistance service that began connecting callers to local businesses in 2007. According to a Google blog post, the service will be shutdown on November 12. After it launched in the US and Canada, the service was heavily advertised – Google even put …


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  1. Samuel Walker
    Thumb Down

    What a fabulous idea

    Use the US to collect data that will be used to power applications that will (in all likelihood) be deployed globally.

    I'm sceptical that their collected data can manage to understand a cockney accent.

    1. Charles 9

      Nice thing about the US.

      Americans, with their liberal English language and high cultural diversity, actually make use of so many phonemes that taking samples from them can actually cover quite a few bases in and of itself. It's part of what makes learning American English as a second language so difficult: we accommodate too easily.

      1. Andrew Woodvine

        UK accents

        Voice search on my Android device is hopeless at understanding my English accent, so I'm with Samuel Walker on this one.

        1. ElNumbre

          Speaking Merkin.

          My Android works ok, provided I use a merkin accent. Specifically a gentle Californian accent. My New Yoik impression is similarly not accepted.

          But, this is not just Google. Microsoft & Dragon applications have required similar cunning linguistics to get a decent match.

      2. Anonymous Coward


        A beer for you Sir for correctly referring to the merkin variant of our language.

        Grenades for anyone using 'British English'. The language used in Britain is English. Just English. The real, unqualified article.

    2. JohnG

      Cockney accent to Americans

      Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins"

  2. Timo

    Will miss it... a little bit

    With a plain old dumbphone it was one way to get around Verizon's $1.99 directory assistance charges.

    But because it was built on top of Google's crap data it would give me phone numbers for places that had closed years ago, or the wrong location for things. Same as Google Maps. I would guess that it happened to me about 20% of the time.

  3. John Tserkezis

    The last time anyone claimed accurate voice recognition...

    ...they used lots of indian humans to do the job.

    And if I recall correctly, they were pretty pissed once they realised they weren't going to get paid for it.

    So, congratulations to all the Google beta testers. You're not going to get paid for it.

  4. Tom Simnett


    I call bullshit

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm sorry. Did you say... bush wit?

  5. Randall Shimizu


    I am sad to see Google 411 go. It was a good resource for those that don't have a smartphone

  6. Anonymous Coward

    And The Point is?

    So a US only service is ended. A service that mostly everyone else on the planet knew nothing about and cared about even less. This is news?

    Google, who do no evil, have collected data of americans speaking whatever language it is they speak over there. This data will then be used to 'train' their speech to text engine. So long as we all learn to talk like Sparky The Magic Piano we'll be able to use this wonderful Mountain View product.

    Don't you just love americans? Their country and society was formed by people from every other country on the planet. Yet they know little about, care nothing about and arrogantly disregard anything outside their own borders.

    I'd like to see this cope with any of the dialects we have in the UK alone. Never mind speaking English with an accent, non-american that is.

    1. OSC

      I was OK with your first paragraph

      The rest I didn't really follow.

      Google launch a free service in USA then pull it once they've built a corpus (or not...), why does that justify an anti-USA rant?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Title: Esquire

        Anything justifies an anti-USA rant. Get used to it.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Billy Connolly

      lives in America...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting* US vs. UK phone number difference


    Has anyone any good explanation why the US habit of replacing some digits within phone numbers by the letters to which they map on the phone's keyboard has never really caught on in the UK? The only UK one I can think of, off-hand, is Smile's 0870 THE BANK, which I doubt anyone uses in that form.

    Of course, in the early days of the UK phone system we had alphabetical exchanges, abbreviated to three characters. (WHItehall 1212, anybody?)

    *interesting to me, at any rate...

    1. TonyHoyle

      Re: Interesting* US vs. UK phone number difference

      Boring factoid.. the old area codes *were* based on letters, just not commonly used.

      6(M) for Manchester, 5(L) for Liverpool, etc.

      (also see

      Since until the advent of digital switching you couldn't choose your number, businesses never picked up the habit of using letters.. and now never do because nobody understands it.

      The reason people often used to answer the phone 'Springfield 1234' was because prior to digital exchanges it was common practice to be able to dial local codes just using the 4 digits. Nowadays it's just quaint.

    2. Anomalous Cowturd

      Scotland Yard...

      Which extension do you require, caller?

      I know, coat, going.

    3. Keith 21

      Most likely explanation... that people in the UK can actually remember numbers so they don't need daft letters in a telephone 'number' to help them to remember (in that case 4) digits.

    4. Jim Carter

      It's just to make numbers more memorable.

      Say for example if you had a business selling laptops, you'd go for 1-800 LAPTOPS, which would translate to 1-800 527 8677. They're the letters mapped to the same keys on an alphanumeric keypad, i.e. 1= ABC, 2=DEF, and so on.

      As a Brit, I really shouldn't know this.

      I'll go get my coat now.

    5. lasersage

      we do have it

      REVERSE didn't you see all those adverts last year?

      R E V, E R S E

      come on kids reverse charges to your parents at ridiculous rates!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        R E V, E R S E

        Ah - a Holly Vallance admirer ;-)

  8. Anonymous Coward

    I've taught it Klingon

    I've been using the Goog-411 system since Day 1, but I've been speaking to it only in Klingon.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @UK accents

    Agree .. when in the US I bought a copy of the version of OS/2 which came with speech recognition and as such came with US voice recognition data. Despite my best efforts I failed to be able to train it to recognize my voice .... unless I adopted a US accent!

  10. Dennis Healey

    Interesting* US vs. UK phone number difference #

    If memory serves me correctly BT (or was it the post office at this time) took the lettering off the phones it supplied when the STD exchanges were introduced and areas given numbers.

    As you had to have the number they issued you with, there was no opportunity to get a phone number that made a word, so it was a totally logical action at the time.

    Makes you misty eyed for the days when you had to wait 3 months to get a phone connected and then it may only be a party line if they did not have a spare connection at the exchange.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      re: Interesting US vs. UK phone number difference

      In case nobody's totally spelled it out here...

      For a number of years -- including five or ten in my own childhood memory -- local exchanges on US telephone numbers were often referred to by mnemonics built around the first two numbers of the three-number exhange; in face, for some odd reason, I can still remember the number our house had when I was about seven years old, when my parents first trained me to use the telephone: Twin Oaks 3-5421, or TW3-5421, or 893-5421.

      This used to come in fairly handy up until I was about twelve or thirteen, a point where I'd learned so many phone numbers that the alphabetical mnemonic actually got in the way, and I started just learning them straight numeric. It wasn't long after that, around the early '70s or so, that the alpha mnemonic was phased out in favor of straight numeric exchange listings.

      Then of course, around the late '70s came all those commercials on late-night TV with custom toll-free numbers such as 1-800-MATTRESS (for a local mattress shop) which, while designed to make the numbers easier to remember, were just a pain in the ass and slowed me down as I paused to mentally map the alpha mnemonic to the keypad on my phone.

      That said... yeah, as was mentioned here... typical fvck!ng Google. I never even knew about that "service" of theirs until just now.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Title: Esquire

      It was the General Post Office, and you were lucky to have a dial at all. Where I lived, we had to lift the receiver and wait for an operator to answer (Kathleen Ferrier if you lived in Blackburn), and she never had any trouble with voice recognition.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical Google

    Offer a free service that is just a cover for harvesting data.

  12. tony trolle

    who uses it ?

    I remember seeing on a site like the reg but never remember it until this new item

  13. James Stewart
    Thumb Down

    Well, bummer.

    I actually used this service on a regular basis. I'm a little bit miffed that it's going away.

  14. Gordon Pryra


    To hear the median voice that's been created from this.

    I know the idea is to understand speech as an input, but I bet they can reverse that to create to true average American voice.

    Would we actually understand it ourselves?

  15. bluesxman

    Off Topic

    Never mind all this putting on an American accent business. My crappy Nokia 6500c has such shockingly poor voice recognition that I can only elicit something resembling an accurate response when I put on my best Stephen Hawking accent. True story.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Why not just use...

    1-800-BING-411 instead?

    Yes, I know Bing is crap, but it still beats $1.99 for directory assistance, no?

    // Donning my flame-proof lab coat since I'm sure the Google fanboys have already shown up...

  17. Doug 1

    Why are you whinning?

    A US based service, that was provided by a US based company, collected American voice-to-speach data. Who cares if it can't do a UK accent?

  18. Anonymous Coward

    try this for hours of fun

    AT&T are already there.

    I used to make up fictional news stories with it. The text to speech is pretty good, but it does have some problems with pronouncing some words/names. It does German, French and Italian too.

  19. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Won't anyone think of the linguists?

    I don't care about GOOG-411. I'm annoyed that Mayer claimed a phoneme is a syllable. You want to use a term of art, learn what it means.

    But then this is pretty much information-accuracy par for the Google course.

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