Ask.com returns to its roots with beta of new search technology

Most Internet veterans would associate the Ask brand with the familiar face of Jeeves, who you could ask a question and usually get the answer that you'd be looking for. However, as the Internet became more sophisticated, that method of search became dated.

The change in our search habits forced Jeeves into retirement in February 2006, and the company moved to a standard based-query system. But it now appears as if question-based queries -- maybe not Jeeves himself though -- may be about to make a comeback.

Ask.com said Monday that it was launching a public beta of its new search technology, which would bring back the question-based system to the forefront. It said that its standard search would now be combined with human answers which would draw on Ask's nearly 87 million monthly unique visitors.

Developers have been working on the new site and technology for close to a year, and the company says the new search platform is only the "tip of the iceberg" for more social integration across the Ask.com platform.

"The capability to pose questions to real people is now possible for those complex, subjective and/or time-sensitive queries that, no matter how advanced, computers simply can't address," the company said in a blog post.

Focusing anew on the Q&A aspect may be a smart move: social search is becoming ever more popular, and the popularity of already established answer sites like Yahoo Answers and Answerbag shows that there is a market. Adding this to Ask seems to make sense considering that is what the company has built its brand upon.

Regardless of what Ask.com does however, it still must look at the reality of its market. With market share of 3.6 percent according to comScore in June, it was a quarter of the size of its next closest rival Microsoft, and more than 60 percent behind market leading Google.

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