When I was in high school, BellSouth introduced a nifty new service: “fuzzy information”. You could pick up the phone and dial 311 (or was it 611?) and an operator would come on the line. You could then ask for “fuzzy” information, like “are there any Indian restaurants in the 30305 zip code?” or “I’m at 123 Maple Street – what’s the nearest dry cleaners?”. The service was free at first, but then BellSouth scaled it down to “the first 3 calls per month are free, any subsequent calls are 99¢”. Eventually, all calls were 99¢… and the service abruptly disappeared a couple of months later.
Apparently I’m not the only one that missed that service. Both Microsoft and Google have introduced similar services recently, and unlike BellSouth’s offerings, both work nationally and both are free!
Ars Technica has this comparison of both services. In a nutshell, Microsoft’s offerings are supreme for now, although Google’s are nothing to sneeze at, either. If you’d rather skip the article and just try them out yourself, here are the numbers: