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GOOG-411 shuts down, but there's an alternative

GOOG-411 shut down on Friday. But don't fret, there's always Bing.
GOOG-411 shut down on Friday. But don't fret, there's always Bing.
  • Voice service GOOG-411 shuts down on Thursday
  • The number let users search business and personal directories for free
  • Users also could place free long-distance calls
  • BING-411 is a good alternative, Gahran says
  • Google Inc.

(CNN) -- Google's 411 service will shut down for good on Friday, but that doesn't mean the end of free calls to business numbers.

Launched in 2007, GOOG-411 was a free voice recognition search service for business listings drawn from the Google Local directory. You'd dial 800-GOOG-411 (or 877-GOOG-411), speak a search request (business name or category) into your phone, and Google would list results in audio.

When you selected a result, Google would place the call -- which meant if the number was long-distance, the call would be free to you.

According to PhoneNews, some cost-conscious callers would call GOOG-411 to place free calls to business numbers -- using it like a "friends and family number." I found this especially useful when calling tech support or customer service numbers -- which often, surprisingly, aren't toll-free.

But, even without the Google service, there's still another way to get around charges for calls to business numbers.

Microsoft's Bing suite of search tools offers a nearly identical service, called Bing 411. According to this audio demo, it works almost like placing a normal 411 call through your phone company -- only without the hefty charges most phone companies levy for this service.

PhoneNews notes it takes 24 hours to update friends-and-family numbers with your phone provider, so this service is useful when you unexpectedly need to call a long-distance business number.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Amy Gahran.


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