free html hit counter Walt Likes Ask | John Battelle's Search Blog

Walt Likes Ask

By - March 30, 2006

New Ask-1

Well looky here, the WSJ has put Walt Mossberg outside the paywall, and it’s a Valentine to Ask.com. Now that makes Steve, Jim and the folks at Ask happy, I’d warrant!

I’ve been testing the new Ask.com against the search champ, Google. I’ve found that in terms of relevant results and ease of use, Ask holds its own with Google, and even beats the champ on some searches. It has some very nice features Google lacks, including previews of the sites it finds, an easy way to narrow or broaden your search results, and frequent top-of-the-screen answers that lead you directly to core information.

The retired butler Jeeves is probably pissed he got canned right before the Journal gives his company props. But no, the stock (well parent IAC stock) did not pop…

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  • JG

    One telling line from the article: “Instead of running ads down the right side of the page, as Google does, Ask uses that space to help the user refine search results.

    I’ve been clamoring to Google for years for query refinement features such as these. The tin foil hat in me has long argued that, even if Google keeps its ads separate from the SERPs, there is a real financial disincentive for offering users a way of better refining their queries. Currently, when a query “fails” and the user does not find what he wants in the first few SERPs, he looks to the right, to the ads, and clicks something there (and $$ goes to Google). If Google were instead to give the user a way of better refining the query, the user might actually use those features, and find what they need in the SERPs, and never click an ad again, no matter how “relevant” the ad.

    So the ads, while “separate”, aren’t really “independent”. They preclude other valuable search possibilities.

    I’m watching Ask intently. It may be that my tin foil hat is just that: Maybe users really don’t want query refinement and it is better for the ads to be where they are. (Google has long said that users are lazy, and won’t refine their queries.. but I’ve yet to actually see any comprehensive attempt on Google’s part to elicit feedback from users.) If Ask succeeds.. and I don’t mean stock price, I mean end user satisfaction.. I think that is going to be a huge deal.

  • http://taurinerules.blogspot.com EnergyGuru

    I like the binoculars. I actually submitted that idea to Yahoo a few months ago. It seemed like a natural fit for them after all the use of Ajax in the new Yahoo Mail Beta.

  • http://search-engines-web.com/ Search Engines Web

    AKS will update their SERPs in a few hours – according to their BLOG

    Also, WEB 3.0 is being lauched on April Fools Day with Rhyme Rank

    blog.ask.com/2006/03/update_launchin.html

    “Web 3.0 is clearly upon us,” noted John Battelle, author of The Search, and one of the world’s leading experts on the search industry. “RhymeRank smartly builds upon the recent relaunch of Ask.com. This is a BIG DEAL and is the kind of innovation that demands Ask’s rivals stand up and take notice. Or to sit on the sidelines in the position of the lotus.”

  • http://www.webmetricsguru.com Webmetricsguru

    The smaller search engines can always improve on features of the industry leader (Google). It’s usually easier to improve something that already exists than come up with something new.

    It’s harder now for Google to just change the layout of their pages because they have more to risk and if they were to copy ASK, the would be acknowledging ASK, in someways, is ahead of Google. I don’t think Google wants to do that, nor would anyone in Google’s position.

  • Voice

    This kind of one-upping among search engines is actually good for the users. They are going to benefit ultimately. Some like Ask.com are fighting this battle the right way, improving their search results first and then adding other attractive user-friendly features. Others like Microsoft are clearly going the wrong way, adding user-friendly interfaces and not going anywhere with their results (not to mention giving searching incentives to users). Knowing Google, they will surely have a trick or two up their sleeves. Let the games begin!! The users will have the final say!!

  • http://www.ask.com Jeeves

    It was quite cool of me to point you to this influential little review, if I do say so myself.

  • Tom

    While the Ask.com or any search engine may build in new enhancements to the presentation of SERPS I’m quite sure it wouldn’t cause me to switch from Google.

    I’m completely enrolled, and have been for some time now, in the proposition that Google offers me through use of personalization features. That is, Google is too far down the road in their relationship with me, of delivering a wide range of relevant information through several different channels of my use of their different products such as, GDS, GMail, Search, Local, Video, Personalized Search and Search History.

    These combinations of channels that provide feedback loops between myself and Google and thus provide a more relevant and efficient information gathering resource have become switching costs, or more appropriately, opportunity costs that I will bare if I were to stop using Google in my personal and business life.

    There is simply no way a few software enhancements for presentation, while they may be nice, will overcome those barriers that exist between myself and Google.

    Practically speaking, many mainstream users while not articulating this behavior of continuing to use Google products in the face of superior presentation, and even incremental increases in query relevance from general search use, will not jump away from Google.

    If anything Ask.com will likely take share from Yahoo, MSN, AOL etc. as Google will continu to increase it overall lead in market share just as the recent stats comScore stas have shown.

    Tom

  • Pascal

    Would appreciate your position pertaining to specific vertical search engine such as http://www.itsearchengine.com that not only leverage the power of Google search but also (a) refine the search queries to a define universe to get great results (do a search on Red Hat in both Google and ITSearchEngine… if you are in IT you’ll prefer the ITSearchEngine results any day…), (b) the single click access to IT centric content related to my search term is really novel (check White Papers for Red Hat search for example)

    Thanks