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Ask.com "re-launch" today

(11th time is the charm?)



2:12 pm on Oct 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Ask.com has given up on their "3D" look for results and is now mimicking a Google-like response page.

Supposedly handles many more types of questions (note the Q&A tab).

I guess InfoWorld is authoritative enough:
Ask.com upgrade improves search relevance, speed [infoworld.com]

Behind the scenes, Ask.com's makeover includes an improved ability to extract data from Web pages; to mix in a wider variety of result types like photos, news, images, and videos; and to tap a broader pool of data sources for queries about entertainment, jobs, health, and reference information.

With this upgrade Ask.com, owned by IAC, is also aiming to recapture the functionality that gave it its prominence during its heyday: the ability for people to type in queries in natural language. Ask.com is bringing this functionality back via a question-and-answer feature that uses semantic search technology to interpret the questions and return relevant answers found on the Web...

[edited by: amznVibe at 2:23 pm (utc) on Oct. 6, 2008]


4:48 pm on Oct 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

As #4, Ask could have had a niche role as comparator for all new SEs. But their obsession with style over substance, marketing over technology, has guaranteed them a rather sadder role as the clown of SEs.

They took their eye off the ball after a really innovative start, and never realised they needed an optician.


4:57 pm on Oct 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I think calling them a clown is harsh. They're not clowns by any measure and deserve more respect than that. I agree about their heavy reliance on marketing over technological substance and innovation.


6:59 pm on Oct 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I must agree, Ask are not clowns - clowns are usually happier than Ask. (Unless you mean those sad, sad clowns that cry and sing, "Pagliacci." Then I could be on board.)

Frankly, I think going back to the natural language search query would be the best thing they could do. The average, non-tech segment is strangely ignored, considering their size. Since most people have never Twittered or created a Google Alert, it would seem to stand to reason that a search engine that answers questions as they're put to it would do well.


8:06 pm on Oct 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I think calling them a clown is harsh

It may be a little harsh; but even this pro-Ask article highlights their succession of fatuous relaunches, and even Jupiter, their new best friend, all but admits that this may be too little too late:

It's going to be difficult with just one announcement and some new features to overtake Google

Understatement of the year?

Based on our research, the strategy of delivering richer search results is the right one.

Nope, it's a simple matter of better results; widening the net on sources isn't the anser; getting results in better order for each search is the only way forward.

And I'm guessing that Jupiter were paid hansomely for this lukewarm support: "Jupiter Research analyst who was given a demo".

I'll be the first to congratulate Ask if they really go back to their roots and start delivering a useful, quality service ... but the tone of this report suggests it's more of the same - half-hearted changes of direction with an emphasis on marketing, not back end.

I speak as I find, and with searchme, quill, and others producing genuine innovation (albeit with flaws, so far!), it's up to Ask to prove me wrong. Saying so is no longer enough. :)


9:32 pm on Oct 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Nah, Quadrille. Jupiter Research is usually happy to look at new and interesting stuff. They are suppose to be on the cutting edge, so they'll take some time with "new" things at no cost. They are bloodsucking consultants only 90 percent of the time.

Otherwise, you're right on the money. Ask.com has thrown too many Hail Mary passes. I've been around for a looooong time and I can remember when they had a shot at being "the" search engine. It was terrible marketing and poor UI that did them in. (A good case for how the wrong senior management can kill an enterprise.) Their technology was outstanding at first; many say it was the best. And it's probably still pretty good.

I'll try them again in a few weeks. My three searches just now had lackluster results.


11:00 pm on Oct 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have it on good authority that the change has been requested by Google so that Ask can maintain a good quality score for it's arbitrage on Adwords.

I know it sounds like conspiracy theory but seriously this is a VERY good source.

You do know that Ask.com gets a huge amount of traffic from arbitrage on Adwords - it is as big a player as Ebay. Take away arbitrage and Ask.com is as big as Mirago.


4:12 am on Oct 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Ask's database is still weak, even compared to MSN, forget Yahoo and Google.

A few test items I query that have been around since 2005 come back with "did you mean" suggestions which is really weird.

They should buy Gigablast's db at least, which is superior to their own and passes my tests.


5:40 am on Oct 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

With all the "pages" out there on "that many topics" the ability to be "relevant" is more difficult than ever...heck WE can't agree on "relevant" so how can the search engines that are churning through so much wheat and chaff expect to find a kernel?

Of course OUR kernel is the relevant kernel... :)

I'm looking at my logs for the last three years... I get MORE referrals from ASK and MSN than I do from Google.

Works for me... but I do admit I run NO advertising or monetize my site in any way. If I did then Google might be my best friend... if I wanted to game the content to gain income from each page/ad displayed.

What I really mean to say is that every search engine out there, ALL OF THEM, are a benefit---and dang few are a detriment.


12:39 pm on Oct 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'm still waiting for the butler dude to make a comeback...

So I checked it out. I noticed one new feature (new to me)... You can customize their homepage with a image background.

I tried it out. Couldn't stand having TWO backgrounds on my monitor... My desktop background is enough for me... having both a desktop and browser background seemed like over kill and hard on my eyes. Needless to say it caused me to stray back to the beautiful simplicity that Google offers...


5:43 pm on Oct 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

It still all resolves around really relevant searches. And unfortunately the quality isn't there at the moment. Dressing up doesn't make this one elegant.

I think any search engine stands a shot at making big inroads right now since so many of them fail miserably.


6:19 pm on Oct 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Nice clean look, the results aren't bad and the preview and stats thing is kind of cool. Don't know if Joe surfer would care or even really understand "unique visitors" though.

Maybe its just me but the bottom line is I get almost zero traffic from it, and we have some good placements.

I think they had their chance at gaining a portion of the pie, but it slipped away.


10:27 am on Oct 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

They are using Google results. I know this because I know a few sites that were penalized by Google, do NOT show up on ASK.COM at all, exact same matches, how odd? All of the complainers in the google usenet forums who are moaning about their rank drops or site bans do not appear on ask.com, so are they really using Google results and just re-organizing them? Looks to be..


9:55 pm on Oct 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

They really do need improved results, but to be players they need more goodies.

I'm totally cynical about why things work out for some companies, and one of the reasons Yahoo! has survived as long as it has is that they have an army of people with Yahoo! Mail and a couple of services that need a Yahoo! login to make it work.

If there was Ask Mail, an Ask Bookmarking tool that didn't stink, and maybe some Ask blog space.... oh who am I kidding? They're just plain ole sunk.


1:27 am on Oct 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Old habits die hard.

I was part of Direct Hit, which got bought by Ask Jeeves, and watched as they (then we) thrashed about over many years with natural language. It was pure BS -- more than 95% of searches boiled down to straight keyword ... not matched by their "semantic knowledge" database that could "disambiguate" meanings like "how do you swing a bat" and "how does a bat see". Of course no one asked questions like that, or if they did, their army of editors would have to instruct the database what the semantic meaning was, first. So the vast majority of searches fell through to regular search engines. But the charming Butler was always there to ask if you needed help.

Then they bought our (Direct Hit) search engine which was marginal after the first 10 results. They got boed with that, so then they bought Teoma, which was also marginal but had a really charismatic guy leading it. Then they did the adwords deal with the devil which saved their butts again. Then they got bought by IAC, then the butler went away.

I haven't been there for a while, but knowledgeable sources inside tell me they are not using Google results directly ... however use techniques that are very similar to Google's for penalizing. So they don't have the horsepower to get the good results, but they at least get rid of anything vaguely fishy. They have to, or else they wouldn't get to put up adwords, would they?

And now, full circle.

I have watched Yahoo piss away its lead in search again and again. Ask certainly had some mindshare, back when we used that phrase, but they couldn't concentrate, and lost it all, over, and over, and over. They are only around now because they got incredibly lucky and managed to score a secondary public offering of $85M just before the last time the bubble burst.

Ask has been roadkill since 2002. They had better re-re-re-re-reinvent themselves again soon.


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