Ask.com Betas Q&A Social Network - InformationWeek
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Ask.com Betas Q&A Social Network

Search technology will direct people to experts who can answer their questions.

Ask.com is melding its question-and-answer roots with its existing community of 87 million unique visitors to create a social networking site where users' questions are answered by real people knowledgeable about the topic under discussion.

Currently in beta, the new social network now is available on an invitation-only basis.

"Our roadmap is full of developments that will make this value proposition really sing: leveraging your social network, accessing Q&A while on the go, and more are planned for the near future," said Tony Gentile, senior VP of product and Lisa Kavanaugh, senior VP of technology, in a company blog. "Today is Ask's first step in a multi-pronged strategy to ensure users get fast, concise answers to virtually any question they ask, any time, any place."

For the past year, Ask has worked on its proprietary search engine technology to develop a tool that locates the most relevant response, placing it highest in the results, according to the company. Founded as Ask Jeeves in 1996, Ask today is using its 14-year history of queries to extract questions and correlate responses from sources throughout the web to answer users' questions, Gentile and Kavanaugh said.

"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," they said. "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."

The website also took the wraps off a new user interface, which it began testing in April. The company now places more emphasis on its questions section and made the Question of the Day available to everyone, said Penny Yao, senior product manager, and Ummair Waheed, front-end application manager, in an Ask blog. The site also improved site navigation and changed the logo.

This is not the first -- or second -- time Ask has revamped its site. Since 2005, when IAC/Interactive acquired the company and dropped the Jeeves character, the site changed three times in three years.

Ask lags far behind other search engines: Google accounted for 62.6% of all June 2010 searches, Yahoo took an 18.9% share, Microsoft accounted for 12.7% of searches, and Ask received 3.6% of queries, according to ComScore's June 2010 results. Only AOL, with 2.2%, received a smaller share of the market.

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