Hot on the heels of announcing a Twitter-like feature for Gmail called Buzz, Google is taking another step towards melding its services with social networking by agreeing to purchase Aardvark. Founded in 2007 by ex-Google engineers, the San Francisco-based startup runs a so called social search engine in which users can ask questions and get responses from the most qualified of their friends and friends of friends.

Aardvark describes its service as "a way to find people, not web pages, that have specific information." After signing up, users can build up their contact list and choose topics that they're knowledgeable about so that the site directs appropriate questions from others to them. As of October 2009, Aardvark had 90,361 users, of whom 55.9% had asked or answered a question according to the company's own numbers.

Google declined to share financial terms of the deal but it is being reported that the search giant paid $50 million for the startup. Details regarding timeframes for the deal and the fate of Aardvark's technology and employees are still scarce at this point.