It seems that Google is expanding it’s product offering yet again. They are now offering a free telephone directory assistance service. Basically you call a toll free number (1-800-GOO-G411) and search for any local business by category or name free. You can then be connected directly to the business number free of charge (regular phone charges apply of course). You can also have an SMS message sent to your phone of the listing.
The service is only currently available in the United States so I’m unable to test the service out myself. The service is also currently limited to only business listings and does not include government or residential numbers.
As is the case with any Google service though, you can be sure that they have some sort of plan to make money off of it. Eventually I’m going to assume that businesses will be able to pay a fee to have their listings come up first. For example if someone searches for a pizza place on first avenue in New York, the shop that pays the monthly fee will get listed first, much like the sponsored ads you see in Google search. Then again, Google has always been very good at coming up with inventive ways of making money so maybe they have something completely different in the works. Either way, it sure beats paying the 50 cents charged by my cell phone company to call 411.