Ask Category Archive
Forgot to mention my Newsbreak article from last week, AskEraser: Privacy Potential. In working on that article and looking at AskEraser, one issue occurred to me that I did not cover in the piece itself.
I received email from Ixquick about AskEraser even before I saw anything from Ask. press release. In that email, Ixquick claims that
OK, Ask uses ads from Google. To display context-sensitive ads, related to the actual query, they have to send at least the query string to the Google ads server. While I could not get a definitive answer from Ask about what specific data elements Google sees, given Ask's commitment to privacy with AskEraser it seems likely that not much more than the query is sent. Even so, I was curious to see how Ixquick funds its service, and sure enough, it uses Google AdWords as well (under Sponsored Listings). So how is their privacy better than AskEraser?
While neither Ask nor Ixquick gives complete privacy, nor do they claim to. I credit both of them with raising the search privacy issue and providing at least some tools for helping protect searcher privacy. Since the vast majority of searchers pay no attention to such issues, I'd rather see all the search engines providing better privacy options rather than just criticizing their competitor's attempts.
Ask has a very nice, new, experimental user interface (UI) called Ask X which has a definite Web 2.0 look and feel, but it also has many attractive and useful new features. First seen two days ago at ReadWriteWeb, their AskX - New UI for Ask.com Secretly Launched post details many of the changes. While I have seen many UI tests at Google, and some at Yahoo!, Ask has not been as active with experimental UIs. With the Ask X experiment, anyone can try it (which is a pleasant change from Google's approach where it is only determined by the luck of the draw). Gary also has an extensive description posted.
Ask has re-done their local search and re-launched it as AskCity. It is designed to integrate four searches: Business and Services, Events, Movies, and Maps and Directions. It is pulling local information from Citysearch, Ticketmaster, OpenTable, Tripadvisor, and more. Other than going directly to AskCity, it should be available in the Search Tools bar on the right (unless you've customized that). It is not (yet) available in the links above the search box after running a search, even when city names are included in the search. The maps have a variety of drawing tools and snapshot boxes below the map. The left panel has the Business, Events, Movies, and Maps choices in drop down panes.
Ask announces the launch Ask Mobile, a cell phones and other mobile device version of Ask.com Web search. The posting highlights numbered shortcuts for quick access to Ask tools, a search history of recent searches, and the formatting of Web pages to better fit on the mobile screen.
With Ask's acquisition of Bloglines, it is about time that Ask has beefed up the Bloglines search capabilities. Previously, the Bloglines search was seriously broken, finding results no more recent that Dec. 2004. Now, not only is the Bloglines search fixed, but Ask has added the Bloglines search at Ask as a Blogs and Feeds search. It is listed in the right hand search tools as well as on the top of the search box on the results pages.
In the past, Ask handled phrase searching differently from the other search engines. Several years ago, phrase searching just did not work all the time. More recently, if a phrase search would get in zero results, Ask would just display the results as if a non-phrase search had been requested. There would be a brief message at the top stating that there were no phrase matches, but it was easy to miss that message. As of today, searching for a phrase such as "american pugilistic association" gives an appropriate message of "Your search for "american pugilistic association" did not match with any Web results."
Unfortunately, it is not yet perfect, in that of the several phrases I tested, they all worked except for one oddity. One search gave six results (plus ads) along with the cryptic message of "Showing results 1-6 of 0" even though there were not any exact phrase matches. Perhaps it was because it included the stopword 'in' even though other phrases with that word did work correctly.
Alas, Jeeves the butler and long-time Ask Jeeves mascot is gone is an icon, as part of the name, and removed from the address. The search engine formerly known as Ask Jeeves is now just plain Ask.com, or Ask for short. Beyond the branding change, Ask has redesigned the site and moved links around. Many of Ask's additional databases are now linked in a right-hand box labeled Search Tools. Unfortunately, the Advanced Search page has moved off the front page. Click the "Next" under Search Tools to find the link to the advanced search page. On that second page, try the edit tool to re-order those links and bring the advanced search onto the front page. In addition, Ask has joined Google, Local Live, and Yahoo! with an AJAX-based map interface. In other words, you can drag the map around by clicking and holding the mouse key down and then dragging the map to reposition it. Like Google and MSN's Local Live, it includes aerial imagery as well as the maps.
Ask has launched its own image search database and now no longer relies on Picsearch for the data. Their press release and blog note that image searching is 16% of their total. In addition to the new underlying database, Ask has introduced "Zoom related search for Images" which is a search refinement option on the right hand side of the page providing options to expand, narrow, or search related words.
Ask Jeeves has upgraded their desktop search product. In the blog post about it, the new features include the following:
- Folder Indexing Preferences
- Improved PDF indexing
- Email attachment name indexing
- Improved Zip file indexing
- Enhanced previews for Office files
- Indexing of iTunes metadata
- Search term highlighting
- Full Outlook Express support
- Pause indexing
- Improved stability overall
- Improved status callouts
New, self-service ads at Ask Jeeves. According to their press release and blog post, Ask Jeeves Sponsored Listings replaces their older Premier Listings program. The new ads will appear above the ads Ask gets from Google.
- More bookmarklets
- A thumbnail screen shot of a saved page when on the modify screen
- Images upload options
- Better tagging options
Ask Jeeves announces the introduction of Zoom and Web Answers. The "Zoom" function is the new name for the implementation of the old Teoma right hand suggestions for narrowing or expanding the search. Ask calls it a "concept navigation tool that offers suggestions to narrow and refine your search ("zooming in"), or expand your search ("zooming out") to explore new ideas." The "Web Answers" are more shortcuts that try to derive answers from indexed Web pages. Triggered when the search query is in a question format or a specific phrase, the "result is labeled as a 'Web Answer,' and the 'answer' is highlighted" in the result's keyword-in-context extract.
Ask Jeeves has announced the launch of a Spanish Jeeves. According to their blog posting (in Spanish and English), it will include a MyJeeves personalized option (as MiAskJeeves). Ask Jeeves Japan is also now out of beta.
A couple of acquisitions involving search companies. First, Ask Jeeves announces that they have signed an agreement to be acquired by Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp. Second, Yahoo! has signed an agreement to acquire Flickr, the photo sharing site. See more in the Flickr blog post or the Yahoo! blog post.
Google still can't do it, but now Ask Jeeves joins Yahoo! in announcing a search toolbar that works in Mozilla Firefox. Once downloaded, the toolbar lets a user search Ask Jeeves, save any page browsed to MyJeeves, save specific locations, and snip content from Web pages.
Ask Jeeves has "simplified" its picture search results. Now, it only a thumbnail and a link below it labeled "source." No file name, URL, size, or dimension information is available like that offered at both Yahoo! and Google. Even MSN offers most of that (except the file name). Picsearch, which supplies the image database to Ask, at least offers dimension and file size. While some will like the cleaner look, I prefer the services that offer more information about the image on the search results page itself.
Lycos has dropped its Yahoo! search engine (formerly known as Inktomi) in favor of an Ask Jeeves database (also known as Teoma). The Ask Jeeves press release includes the following: "The Lycos brand is known for search and we're committed to re-establishing Lycos.com as a leading search site," said Adam Soroca, general manager of search services at Lycos, Inc. "Ask Jeeves' Teoma search technology will deliver outstanding results to users of our new search-centric experience at Lycos.com."
Web-based RSS reader and search engine Bloglines has been acquired by Ask Jeeves. According to Ask's press release "the acquisition brings together complementary technology assets, including Bloglines' leading RSS aggregation capabilities and Ask Jeeves' world-class Teoma algorithmic search technology. Ask Jeeves plans to leverage these technologies across its search and portal brands, and as of today, Bloglines' Web search capability will be powered by Ask Jeeves' search technology."
Now Ask Jeeves has announced a Desktop Search product as well. Their beta version indexes Microsoft Office files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), simple text files, Microsoft Outlook email messages, and image, music, and video files. Technical requirements are Windows 2000 or XP, Office 2000 or higher, and Outlook 2000, XP and 2003. It requires a minimum of a Pentium III computer running at 400MHz with 128 MB RAM.
Ask Jeeves announced the official launch of Teoma 3.0 search technology at both the Ask Jeeves and Teoma sites. The upgrade includes
- "Increased Relevance by enhancing its "ability to classify content in order to better assess authority."
- Improved Freshness "including daily crawls of popular, news, and other important sites.
- An expanded database with over "2 billion English-only Web documents" and a plan to get over 2.5 billion by the end of the year.
- Support for double-byte Asian languages, "enabling the recent beta launch of Ask Jeeves Japan (Ask.jp), the first non-English based Teoma index."
- New search features announced but not yet available includecached pages, related searches on Ask Jeeves, the ability to restrict by file types (PDF and Flash).
Ask has announced its new MyJeeves services which, once you have registered, allows for saving and organizing search results (and searches) as well as sharing the results with others. This is an interesting new direction that may well appeal to frequent searchers. In addition, Ask Jeeves Local (beta) is now available offering yellow page records along with user ratings from CitySearch. These Local results will also appear sometimes as a SmartSearch answer at the top of regular web results.
Teoma (and thus Ask Jeeves as well) has added indexed PDF files to their database. Unfortunately, they do not yet have any limit syntax, although adding a
inurl:pdf to a query term comes close. On Ask Jeeves, the PDF files have a red (PDF File) after the title while on Teoma [PDF File] is in green after the title.
Ask Jeeves has announced that it will be purchasing Interactive Search Holdings, a company which includes a variety of search sites : MyWay, MySearch, My Web Search, iWon, and Excite. At this point, these site all currently use either Google results or results from several search engines. Once the purchase is completed, it sounds likely that they will be switched to Ask Jeeves/Teoma search results. The press releases mentions that this will double Ask Jeeves' market reach.
Further integrating Teoma search features, Ask Jeeves now has an advanced search page. It has all the same features as the Teoma advanced search page except for the ability to get more than 10 results at a time and to open results in a new browser window. However, both of these options are available not at Ask Jeeves via the "Your Settings" preferences page. In addition, an adult content filter is available there which is not available from Teoma. No link to the advanced search page is available from the main Ask Jeeves page at this point, but there is a link on every results page.
Ask Jeeves has completed the sale of its enterprise search, announced on May 28 to Kanisa. In conjunction with the original announcement, the company stated that "Ask Jeeves will now focus on its core competency of Web-wide search."
Ask Jeeves launches a new version, Ask Jeeves 5.0. The changes include
- A new database for images from Picsearch, available from a link on the main page as well as from a radio button and when the query includes 'pictures' or 'images.'
- Spelling suggestions added at the top
- Streamlined look on the main page
- Ask has moved away from the tabs approach so common at other search engines. Instead, it has links on the bottom of the main page to their image, news, and products databases.
- Search terms are highlighted in boldface in results list
- Some suggested 'related searches' may show up in the right margin, but the Teoma resources (metasites) are not included.
- For certain popular queries, Ask offers 'Smart Answers.' For driving directions, acronyms/abbreviations, movie times, sports teams, and more, preselected content is included in a top red-bordered box.
Today Ask Jeeves announced that banners ads have been banished from the Ask Jeeves sites. Instead, they "will focus on its core offerings including Branded Response and Premier Listings." They also note that interstitials (pop-up ads) were also banished recently.
Ask Jeeves announces the acquisition of Octopus, an enterprise integration and information presentation software company. This will most likely be used for enterprise search technology, especially with applications linking to information in back-end databases.
Jan. 9, 2002: Ask Jeeves announces the completion of the integration of Teoma search results into Ask Jeeves. These results were added sometime in December. Today's press release claims a 25% increase in user satisfaction rate after the introduction. The Teoma results are listed under the heading "You may find my search results helpful." The press release also notes that the Teoma site will continue as well and is due out of beta in the second quarter of this year.