Review of Ask.com
Oct. 10, 2006.
by Greg R. Notess
The search engine formerly known as Ask Jeeves has changed greatly from its early days as a question answer matching service to being a real Web search engine using a database originally developed by Teoma. The question-answering tradition continues in Ask's shortcuts that give a direct answer for many popular query types right at the top of regular search results. Use the table of contents on the left to navigate this review.
For More on Ask.com
See News & Blog Posts
Ask has a Web, news, images, and a blogs and feeds databases. It may also includes paid ad results (from Google's AdWords database). Ask Jeeves switched to Teoma instead of Direct Hit in Jan. 2002 for the search engine results after its question and answer matches.
* Identifying metasites
* Refine feature to focus on Web communities
* Smaller database
* No free URL submission
* No ability to uncluster results to easily see more than two hits per site
* No cached copies of pages
The default setting is an AND operation.
Limited Boolean searching is available. Ask defaults to an AND between search terms and supports the use of - for NOT. Either OR or ORR can be used for an OR operation, but the operator must be in all upper case. Unfortunately, no nesting is available, so
term1 term2 OR term3 is processed as
(term1 AND term2) OR term3.
Try the advanced search, but it
is still difficult to do a
term1 AND (term2 OR term3) search.
Phrase searching is available by using
"double quotes" around a phrase or by checking the "Phrase Match" box.
Ask also supports phrase searching when a dash is used between words with no spaces as in
cd-rom-drivers. Until Nov. 2002,
Ask's help page stated that "Teoma returns results which exactly or closely matches the given phrase" which meant that not all phrases matches will necessarily be accurate. As of Nov. 2002, that appears to have been corrected and phrase searching now works properly.
No truncation is currently available.
Searches are not case sensitive. Search terms entered in lowercase, uppercase, or mixed case all get the same number of hits.
The following field searches were introduced in Nov. 2002. It appears that only one at a time can be used, and most cannot be combined with other search terms. So, intitle: and site: can be combined, but intitle: and inurl: cannot. These are also available on their advanced search page.
|intitle:||Finds pages that have the term(s) in the HTML title element. If one intitle: is used, all search terms are searched within the title element. Can be combined with a phrase search. intitle:"search engines".|
|inurl:||Finds pages that have the term(s) somewhere in the URL (host name, path, or filename). If one inurl: is used, all search terms are searched within the title element. Can be combined with a phrase search. inurl:searchenginewatch.|
|site:||Finds pages from the designated Web site. This is really a domain limit. Top level domain must be included. Paths and file names cannot be included. An additional search term must be used. Try a term from the domain name for the most comprehensive results. A search like notess site:notess.com finds how many pages are included for a specific site.|
|last:||Finds pages from one of the specified periods: week, 2weeks, month, 6months, year, 2year. last:2weeks|
|afterdate:||Finds pages with a page stamp date later the query in yyyymmdd format. afterdate:20051022|
|beforedate:||Finds pages with a page stamp date before the query in yyyymmdd format. beforedate:20051022|
|betweendate:||Finds pages with a page stamp date between the query dates in yyyymmdd,yyyymmdd, format. betweendate:20051022,20060214|
|inlink:||Is supposed to finds pages that have the term(s) somewhere in the anchor text.|
Ask has limits for language, domain, geographic region, and date. All are available from their advanced search page. The domain or site limit can also use the
site: syntax as specified above
and limits to a specific domain.
The geographic regions include continents and subcontinents: Africa, Central
America, Europe, India or Asia, Middle East, North America, Oceania, South
America, and Southeast Asia. Dates can be specified or chosen from the following
drop-down options: Last week, 2 weeks, month, 3 months, 6 months, year, or 2
Language and domain limits were introduced in Nov. 2002 with access from the
page by Jan. 2003. By July 2003 at least, geographic region and date were added
to the advanced search.
For language limits, used the advanced search or add the command
lang: followed by a two letter code for the language. For example:
mondialement lang:fr adds the French limit to a search on 'mondialement.' Here are the
ten available as of April 2004. (Only the six with an asterisk * are on the advanced search page.)
Ask does ignore frequently-occurring words such as 'the,' 'of', 'and', and 'or'. However, like at Google, these stop words can be searched by putting a + in front of them or by including them within a phrase search.
By defaults, sites are sorted in order of perceived relevance. They also have site collapsing (showing only two pages per site with the rest link via a
More results from message. There is no option for sorting alphabetically, by site, or by date.
Ask displays the title (roughly first 60 characters), a two line keyword-in-context extract from the page, and the URL for each hit. Some will also have a binoculars preview icon before the URL and a cache copy link after the URL. Other sections on the right margin may display for larger searches include "Narrow Your Search," "Expand Your Search," and "Related Names." Some "Sponsored Links" may show up at the top and bottom of the results from the Google AdWords program.
Ask will only display 10 Web page records at a time; however, up to a 100 at a time can be displayed through a change in the preferences.