Google Just Killed the U.S. Directory Assistance Business

With its newly (quasi-)released Google Voice Local Search, Google just killed the directory assistance business in the U.S. Okay, maybe not killed outright, and the business was in decline anyway, but who in their right mind would pay for a call to directory assistance when you can call 1-800-GOOG-411 and get free service.


  1. blofeld says:

    most likely you are right. but i can’t help but remember the case of OAG (the flight data guys) who were fretting when American Express set up a competing service with a lower price. What did OAG do? They raised prices. After working with a consultant they realized that the lower cost offering from Amex just didn’t overcome the perceived switching costs. I wonder how many people will just say, ‘screw it. it’s just 50 cents and i can’t remember that damn google number’ not to mention those who will never learn of the service given google’s lack of advertising.

  2. Tiny Helmsman says:

    Hm. There’s only so far you can push voice reco 411 without backing it up with operators. Also, I’m pretty sure Google has been doing this for a while. I’d say this threatens outfits like FREE411 a lot more than traditional DA.

  3. I agree with Tiny that right now it’s a bigger threat to the alternative providers. Most people just dial 411.
    Unlike Jingle, Google will actually connect you through to the business which makes the service much more useful. (Especially in the car where you’re not going to stop to write down a number and dial it.)
    Easy enough for Jingle to replicate, but it definitely increases the cost of the service.
    Lots of possibilities on the back end too – send a text message with business name, ads, link to Google Maps, etc.
    More here:

  4. That’s pretty slick.
    it’s just 50 cents and i can’t remember that damn google number
    My cell phone provider charges my company $1.50 per call. It adds up. Pop that number in my cell phone memory, link it to voice dial and I’m set.
    Granted I”ll never remember that number at home – but at home I use Google to look up numbers.

  5. Hm. There’s only so far you can push voice reco 411 without backing it up with operators.
    There is that but .. in one call I was able to get my wife’s shop, my day job (different cities), and a restaurant in Detroit, Oregon that I was last in in 1983.

  6. Tiny Helmsman says:

    I didn’t have the same luck. Anecdotal data is pretty useless with voice, though. The technology isn’t there for fully automated DA yet. And white pages is completely hopeless. I do think this is the future of DA. But Google’s offering still seems like a toy for now.

  7. Matheny says:

    People are mentioning that there’s no live customer support with the Google number, as there is with 1-800-Free411. Just try asking for Shalakishviliopolis Products and see how far that gets you on the Google number. Ask for it with 1-800-Free411 and you’ll get a live operator whom you can spell it to. Also, 1-800-Free-411 has government and residential listings, and the Google number doesn’t. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that Google has rolled out with an inferior product.