Ask.com is going back to its roots, beta-testing a new version of its site that reverts to the old Ask Jeeves model of having users type in a question, rather than simply search terms.
President Doug Leeds told The New York Times‘ Bits:
People never stopped coming to us with their questions. We started out that way, and that’s what people remember. There are still some things that Google doesn’t do very well. They are just trying to get you in the neighborhood of an answer. We want to deliver that answer. “Google” is a verb, but don’t forget that “ask” is a verb, too.
And senior vice president of product Tony Gentile and senior VP of technology Lisa Kavanaugh posted on the Ask.com Blog:
Today we’ve officially launched the public beta for the new Ask.com, which combines our proprietary answers technology (specifically tailored to extract questions and answers from the Web) with the human insight of the thriving Ask.com community drawn from our 87 million monthly uniques. Now available on an invite-only basis (you can request your invite here), the capability to pose questions to real people is now possible for those complex, subjective and/or time-sensitive queries that, no matter how advanced, computers simply can’t address.
That means that Ask.com is now uniquely able to offer the most comprehensive and convenient approach to getting answers, combining pages and people to help users find the answers to all questions — even questions for which no answer is published online.
Why the re-energized focus on Q&A? From a macro trend perspective, the explosion of the social Web underscores both the cultural shift and massive technical innovation of the last 15 years. Simply put: People are using the Web as a conversational medium, ergo, consumers are increasingly asking questions (evidenced by demonstrated interest in Q&A from Google, Facebook, and an entire cadre of start-ups).
Our semantic approach is not simply repurposed search technology. We’ve taken the last year to enhance our offering to locate the most relevant, high-quality answer and display it right at the top of page (surfing through 10 blue links not required).
To make our community the most effective, Ask.com has the ability to route questions to relevant people based on interests and expertise. This means only the right people will be asked to answer a specific question, reducing spam and question fatigue. Responses from our community will also be indexed and available (depending on level of freshness and relevance) to address future questions posed on Ask.com.