In a last-ditch effort to restore its relevance, Ask.com is going back
to its roots. The search site launched a Q&A service today that will
answer questions that users ask in plain English, such as: Why is a four leaf clover lucky?
The service relies on something Google's algorithms don't: real live
human beings. The "Ask the Community" tool allows you to pose a question
to a group of self-proclaimed experts who specialize in specific
fields. Ask.com says the response time will be less than 10 minutes.
Once the question is answered, the information will be saved for others
searching the same question. For now, the new service is invite-only (you can apply for an invite here
). Will the new strategy work?
- The Company's Betting Everything On This, writes Greg Sterling
at Search Engine Land: "Ask has tried a number of things since 2008,
after abandoning the innovative '3D' interface championed by former CEO
Jim Lanzone (now at Clicker). None have really succeeded in moving the
needle for the company, which has a stable core user base but can’t seem
to generate new growth... The company is making a serious bet that
'Q&A' can be a differentiator for Ask and provide new appeal for the
engine, which has seen flat-to-modestly-declining traffic over the past
- This Isn't Going to Work, writes Liane Cassavoy
at PC World: "Even if the results it provides are stellar, I'm not
convinced that Ask is going to woo Web users its way. After all, we're
smarter Web searchers than we were 10 years ago: we know we can enter a
question into Google's search box if we really want to. And we know
Google can deliver authoritative results -- not just an answer from
another Web user that may or may not be true. In this respect, it feels
like Ask.com is late to the party, even though this party may have been
Ask's idea first. Mr. Jeeves may be better off looking for work
- This Is a Natural Fit for Ask, writes David Goldman
at CNN Money: "Ask.com is already data-mining to present many of its
search results in the form of an answer. For instance, a search for 'who
is the fastest man in the world' gives the answer: 'Usain Bolt, who
holds the world records for both the men's 200 m and the men's 100 m, is
the fastest person in the world.' The same search on Google doesn't
answer the question outright, but the top link is a Wikipedia article on
- 'It's a Smart Move,' writes Dan Nosowitz
at Fast Company: "Ask.com can't compete with Google on sheer
algorithmic muscle; nobody can, really. But there are chinks in Google's
armor, chinks Google itself is perfectly aware of. Google knows that
curated answers can often be more useful, shown by its acquisition of
Aardvark (a direct-response Q&A system) and Metaweb (which removes
vocabulary-based ambiguity by referencing a directory of 'entities').
But Ask.com is very close to launch, and could beat Google to the
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