Ask.com Raising The White Flag, Or Launching Search 2.0?

Posted on July 27, 2010

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Ask(.com) and ye shall receive

Fast Company et alAsk.com on Tuesday soft launched a new question-and-answer service — which, depending on who you listen to, is either a white flag in the field of “traditional” search, or a shrewd attempt to reinvent Web searching in its own image.

To date, Ask.com “has tried with scant success to morph itself into a search engine on par with those of Google and Microsoft,” writes The New York Times.

“For years, Ask.com has basically been roadkill in the search-engine wars,” writes CNNMoney.com. “Trailing way behind Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing, it has a market share online data tracker ComScore estimates at just 3.6%.”

Q&A sites — powered by communities of volunteers, algorithms, or some combination of both — are nothing new. Along with Ask.com original search platform, and Yahoo Answers, Q&A sites are now popping up left and right.

As the The Times writes, “Aardvark, which was acquired by Google, and Quora, which recently raised $14 million in venture financing, have [recently] led a new generation of search services that zero in on specific questions rather than search terms.”

Also, as The Los Angeles Times notes, “Facebook is testing a question-and-answer service that will allow you to share even more with your friends by getting insight from them.”

Until now, however, no one seems to have found a killer Q&A formula, Sterling Market Intelligence analyst Greg Sterling tells the L.A. Times.

“This whole notion of Q&A and human-powered search is really valuable and powerful, but not so far done in a way that is effective across the board,” he said. “It’s really about how they can provide targeted responses to questions people have. You have to provide a great experience every time. In most cases, there will be a reasonably good response on Google. They will have to be that much better.”

Regarding Ask.com’s latest foray into Q&A, “It’s almost a throwback to the company’s early days, and it’s a smart move,” writes 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.”

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