Feeds

Ask.com embraces its inner Jeeves

Q&A butler reborn as web 'community'

Top three mobile application threats

Ask.com has gone back to the future, unveiling a public beta version of a major redesign that returns the site to its days as a butler that answered your questions.

But this being the age of "social media," the IAC-owned company has added a new twist to its old question-and-answer setup. In addition to using automated algorithms to answer natural language questions, the new Ask.com will provide answers via a "community" of net users.

"[The beta] 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," reads a company blog post.

At the moment, the community bit is invite-only – you can request an invitation here – but the automated answering system is live today. If you ask a question, the site returns an answer at the top of the search page - with no need to click through. The company says it has a database pairing 500 million questions and answers, calling this the world's largest index of its kind.

The invite-only community seems to work a bit like Aardvark, the "social search service" that Google acquired in February. You ask a question and it gets shuttled to someone who may know the answer. "Ask.com has the ability to route questions to relevant people based on interests and expertise," the company says. "This means only the right people will be asked to answer a specific question, reducing spam and question fatigue."

With Aardvark, when you register for the service, you enter several subject areas where you may be able answer questions, and these are used to route queries your way. Ask.com also says that responses from its community will be indexed for future use.

According to Ask.com, its redesign was a year in the making. The company began life in 1996 as Ask Jeeves, using a cartoon incarnation of P.G Wodehouse's famous butler as the face of a site that answered natural languages questions using a database built by human editors. But after the rise of Google, the company abandoned not only Jeeves but its Q&A model, switching to the sort of algorithmic search popularized by Mountain View.

Ask.com currently the fourth largest search engine in the US, behind Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft Bing. Its share tops out at 3.6 per cent, according to comScore. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.