Google pulls the plug on more products – the Larry Page clean-up continues

It’s no secret that the new, Larry Page-led Google is pruning its sprawling collection of products.

Page said so himself on the company’s quarterly earnings conference call, and the recent closures of Slide (a social networking firm Google acquired for $179 million a year ago), Google Labs and Google Health, have made it clear that Page is a man of his word.

Ten more Google products were put on the chopping block on Friday — or as Google put it more delicately in a post on its official blog, the products were swept up in a “spring-clean.”

“Over the next few months we’ll be shutting down a number of products and merging others into existing products as features,” said Google Senior Vice President Alan Eustace in the blog post.

Among the latest casualties: Aardvark, a pioneering social question-and-answer service that had earned praise from tech pundits before Google acquired it in 2010; Fast Flip, a two-year-old tool that allows readers to quickly “flip” through pages of digital newspapers and magazines, and Sidewiki a tool that lets people leave comments about specific Web pages as they browse.

Forget about Google Me, Facebook unveils its Google rival

For weeks, techies have speculated about Google Me, the company’s secret project to take on social networking king Facebook.

But Google isn’t the only one that can play that game.

On Wednesday, Facebook unveiled a new question-and-answer service for the 500 million users of its Internet social network that could have serious implications for Google.

FBQuestionsThe new service isn’t a traditional search engine, per se, but it addresses many of the same needs that a search engine does, and thus could pose a threat to Google’s lucrative search empire.

Inside Google’s M&A machine: 3 months, $145 million, 9 deals

It’s no secret that Google has been on a buying binge, snapping up tech start-ups at a rapid-fire pace. What’s less transparent is how much that spree is costing it.

How much money is forked over is mostly a matter for speculation. Google doesn’t disclose financial terms for most acquisitions and only a few of the deals have had financial details leak out onto the blogosophere.

So it’s a bit of a welcome surprise that TECHNOLOGY CESGoogle shed a little more light on the matter on Wednesday in a regulatory filing with the SEC, in which it said it paid a total cash consideration of $145 million for nine acquisitions in the first three months of the year.

Aardvark’s Internet search: No web pages required

Microsoft may be the only company with the wherewithal to challenge Google’s Internet search dominance head on, but a number of firms are trying to outflank Google with services that handle aspects of search not covered by Google’s index of Web pages.

Aardvark – a firm whose cofounders include two ex-Googlers – is pushing something it calls “social search.”

Instead of looking at Web pages to find answers to search queries, Aardvark’s service taps a person’s network of social contacts. Ask Aardvark for anything from restaurant recommendations to home improvement tips, and the service will relay the question to Facebook and Twitter friends who have identified themselves as “experts” on various topics.