Ask Tests New Search Interface

In an effort to become more relevant in the search market, Ask has begun to quietly test a new three-paned interface for its search results, bringing together the strengths of its parent company InterActiveCorp's varied holdings.

Ask holds about a 5.9 percent search share according to research firm comScore Networks, and has shown some upward momentum in recent months. However, this remains far behind market-leading Google, who had a 45.4 percent share as of October of this year.

Publicly accessible at askx.com, the front page of the site looks very similar to that of competitors Google and the recently launched Windows Live Search. However, the similarities end there. Once inside, search result information is split between three columns.

The design of the search results page is quite similar to that of AskCity, it's revamped local search portal released earlier this month. That too attempts to utilize the various IAC sites, much like Ask X will do.

In the first pane on the left of the page, Ask provides a control panel to allow the user to change the scope of his query, run related searches or launch a new one altogether.

The middle pane will display the standard results, and an additional pane to the right will provide links to related data across other IAC sites and the Internet. For example, a search on "Philadelphia Eagles" links the user to a search box for events from Ask City, shopping via PriceGrabber.com, and videos from Blinx.

In addition, the right pane also displays links to blogs and Wikipedia entries and other types of information available on the web. Users would not need to click on links to see if they contain the right information: a preview feature would display thumbnails of the pages listed in the search results.

InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller first publicly acknowledged the site's existence during a conference call with investors. Diller says that IAC's search efforts will become increasingly more important in its general business as it seeks to gain market share and generate additional revenue.

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