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December 27, 2007

5 Questions with Ask Italy's Antonio Gulli

"Pisa?" I've had friends react, "Why do you guys have an office in Pisa?" As easy as it would be to joke about frequent "business" trips to Tuscany, I was curious myself. So I corralled the head of the Pisa office, our Director of Advanced Search Projects Antonio Gulli, for an e-mail interview. He sent back answers liberally sprinkled with links from Ask products, including News and Image Search, to which the Pisa folks are major contributors.

By the way, if you're an engineer and want to go to work in a 14th century Tuscan palace, start learning Italian now.

1. So, Antonio. What are the advantages of Ask having an office in Pisa?

Pisa has one of the most prestigious Engineering and Computer Science Universities in Europe. Therefore, Ask has access to much talent for both our local and remote offices. In addition, Pisa is located in Tuscany, a region loved by many people for the food, the wine, and the quality of life. Pisa is connected with New York JFK by a 7-hour direct flight and the airport is 20 minutes walking distance from the office.

2. Italy's a center for computer engineering? How'd that come about?

Well, for the record, the first University of Pisa was founded back in 1343! Long time ago. But the history of Pisa as center for computer engineering goes back to 1954. That's when Pisa University, on the advice of the Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi, decided to design and construct a computer intended entirely for scientific use--the first in Italy. The University of Pisa's Computer Science course curriculum back in the 1960s was Italy's first.

Pisa also hosted one of the first Internet connections in Italy--and one of the first 50 WWW servers in the world--back in 1986. Nowadays, Pisa has three different universities: Pisa University System, Scuola Normale Superiore and the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies.

3. Does the Pisa office have a particular role at Ask.com?

Our office was a key contributor for Ask Image Search, Ask AP Image Search, and Ask Blog search. Currently, we're collaborating with the other offices on upcoming Ask Search products.

4. Are your employees only from Italy?

No, we also have staff from other European countries like France, Lithuania and Hungary.

5. Where do you find your engineers? (Don't give away any trade secrets ;-)

We've hired many talented people from University. Being from a company that people know makes recruitment much easier ;-) Of course, another good reason why they come and work for Ask.com Pisa is our location. Here's some new photos:

Our office is the former Palace Gambacorti, on Corso Italia (literally "Italy Avenue"). Built in the 14th century, it was the home of the Gambacortis, Pisa's most powerful family. Henry VII stayed in the palace, as did Charles IV of Luxembourg. The new office is GORGEOUS even for Italian standards.

He ain't kidding. Check out these photos:

Told you.

Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager
Ask.com

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December 20, 2007

The Year in Ask: 2007

A roller coaster of a year, all told, what with introducing a company-changing product (or two), some industry initiatives, and of course, some sort of Google thing. Plenty of great stuff to look back on. What sort of stuff, you might ask?

FEBRUARY


ASK CO-INTRODUCES SITEMAPS DISCOVERY

We got caught up in the robots.txt revolution side-by-side with Yahoo! and the Google.

ASK UK "INFORMATION REVOLUTION" CAMPAIGN SHAKES UP "SLEEP SEARCHERS" IN THE UK

Ask UK and Fallon took it to the streets of London with a secret, then not-so-secret viral campaign that resulted in one million new users in three months.

 

ASK MOBILE WINS TWO WEBBYS

We scored the Webby Award for best mobile site AND the People's Voice Webby in the Mobile category. Doug Leeds' five-word acceptance speech: "San Dimas Highschool Football RULES!"

ASK INTRODUCES ASK MOBILE GPS

The tangy wholesomeness of Ask Mobile met the great tastes of Citysearch, Evite, and even a GPS service. Mobilicious.

JUNE

ASK3D LAUNCHES

Our big moment of 2007--swapping out our previous results page design with a three-column triptych that nestles content and media results right in next to the blue links.

AUGUST

SES 2007 SAN JOSE

For SES in our backyard, we came out in force, with multiple speakers, a big ol' booth, a Jim Lanzone keynote interview and a party where someone's arm got broken. Or sprained, I forget. I liveblogged SES SJ 2007, as did, oh, everyone else there.

SES 2007 San Jose Day One, Two, Three.

ASK SCORES BIG IN CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

The University of Michigan gave us top marks in their American Customer Satisfaction Index. Which ain't hay.

SEPTEMBER

ASK MAPS UK LAUNCHES

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On the plus side, The entire UK can now take advantage of our 3D-ified Maps & Directions. On the minus side, our London staff no longer has an excuse to be late for work.

NEW ASK.COM TV ADS

Proof that if you have a good product, all you need to do is show it at work. The Ron Popeil philosophy paid off with great response & word-of-mouth.

NOVEMBER:

ASK & GOOGLE SIGN MULTI-YEAR DEAL

We agreed to continue running Google Sponsored Listings on our network; in return, we opened up a briefcase the size of a couch and told Google, "Fill it." That's not how it happened but I like to think it was.

DECEMBER:

ASKERASER LAUNCHES

We announced our plans to do it back in July. And in December, we walked the walk and gave users control over their search privacy. A great way to round out the year.

Thanks to everyone for their support this year, and stick around--you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager
Ask.com

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December 11, 2007

Ask Launches AskEraser

Privacy. It's a topic we discuss quite a bit here at Ask.com. But we we do more than talk about it. We listen to user feedback, industry debate, the CDT and many other sources. And we've responded by launching AskEraser on Ask.com and Ask UK.

Search Privacy When Enabled

AskEraser is a new privacy feature on the Ask site that provides searchers with unprecedented control over their search activity data. You can turn on AskEraser at any time and start searching Ask.com with the confidence that your search activity data will be completely deleted from Ask.com servers within a number of hours.

Since initially announcing the project earlier this year, we've been working hard to make sure that AskEraser hits on all key pieces of user data across all our servers and most importantly, is drop-dead simple for our users. We think we've come up with a clean and simple approach that truly puts the power in the hands of all users.

Our Ten-Second How-To

Starting today, you can turn on AskEraser by simply clicking the "AskEraser" link at the top of the Ask.com home page or search results pages (see image below).

You'll then get a dialog box containing a "Turn on AskEraser" button.

Click "Turn On AskEraser." From that point forward, your search activity will be deleted from our servers.

AskEraser will remain "on" across multiple browser sessions until you turn it off by clicking the "Off" link that will appear in the header.

A Few Key Points to Remember:

- When AskEraser is enabled, your search activity will be completely deleted from Ask servers within a number of hours (we're not being sneaky here - we'll get rid of your search activity ASAP. See the AskEraser FAQ for more information on the deletion process).
- "Search activity" includes your search terms, clicks, IP address and any user/session IDs assigned to you.
- You can turn AskEraser on (or off) at any time and you'll have a constant reminder at the top of the page when AskEraser is on.
- You can read more in the AskEraser FAQ and also brush up on our updated Privacy Policy.

All Part of the Plan

Not long ago, we stated our commitment to completely disassociate search history from a user's IP address and User ID information after 18 months. AskEraser is yet another step toward greater user privacy…and it's not our last. Next year, AskEraser will be launched across the other Ask.com locales, at which point its breadth of coverage will be even further increased.

We're really excited about the possibilities for this and other privacy initiatives and are  looking forward to what's in store for next year. In the meantime, try out AskEraser and let us know what you think.

Michael Leo
Senior Product Manager
Ask.com

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December 05, 2007

The Latest Ask.com Radio Ads

You didn't think we only did TV commercials, did you? Currently burning up the airwaves (did I just mix metaphors?) is the latest Ask.com radio campaign. As our Marketing department puts it, they "compliment the TV effort," and if you haven't heard the spots yet, here's my favorite:

"Pharma"

Have you heard the spots? Do you like them? Drop a comment into this post and let us know.

Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager
Ask.com

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December 04, 2007

Our Search Top 10's for 2007

"If you want to see how a society thinks, look at what it searches for."
--George Bernard Shaw

Okay, George Bernard Shaw didn't say that. I made it up. BUT, if you want to take a look at what fascinated people this year, our big list of 2007 Most Popular searches is a great place to look.

Ask.com's Top Searches of 2007

1. MySpace
2. Dictionary
3. Google
4. Themes
5. Area Codes
6. Cars
7. Weather
8. Games
9. Song Lyrics
10. Movies

Yep, MySpace was the big one...In fact, I believe it was #1 last year as well. Bebo? Orkut? Facebook? Nowhere to be found. The other nine are a pretty good survey of how people use the Internet.

...Including a certain competitor/partner in the #3 slot. But what can we say? Our list is as straight as it comes--we tell it like it is. And maybe--just maybe--if *other* search engines showed us their lists of top searches...we might see Ask.com in theirs as well.

Ask.com's Top Presidential Candidate Searches of 2007

1. Barack Obama
2. Hillary Clinton
3. Fred Thompson
4. John Edwards
5. Mitt Romney
6. John McCain
7. Ron Paul
8. Rudy Giuliani
9. Mike Huckabee
10. Dennis Kucinich

Democrats use search engines more. Anyone not see that coming? Interesting that Fred Thompson was the #1 searched-on Republican. Maybe because he's the most video-genic?

Ask.com's Top Sports Team Searches of 2007

1. Boston Red Sox
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. New England Patriots
4. Colorado Rockies
5. Chicago Bears
6. New York Yankees
7. Green Bay Packers
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
9. Chicago Cubs
10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The big story this year was the Sox, so it makes perfect sense that they'd take the top Sports spot. And congrats to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for being the only college team to make the list.

Ask.com's Top Television Show Searches of 2007

1. Hannah Montana
2. Family Guy
3. SpongeBob SquarePants
4. WWE
5. American Idol
6. Big Brother
7. Gilmore Girls
8. South Park
9. Charmed
10. Grey's Anatomy

Everyone's favorite Disney Channel series (not to mention best-selling concert tour) landed the top spot in Ask.com's list of 2007's most popular television shows. And if this the last few weeks of top searches are any indication, ol' Hannah has pole position for 2008 as well.

Ask.com's Top Celebrity Search of Pregnant Stars in 2007

1. Jennifer Lopez
2. Salma Hayek
3. Christina Aguilera
4. Julia Roberts
5. Halle Berry
6. Nancy Grace
7. Nicole Richie
8. Milla Jovovich
9. Tori Spelling
10. Bridget Moynahan

And then there's everyone's favorite guilty search pleasure: pregnant celeb watch. All of this year's usual suspects are present.

Welcome to your world, folks. For a weekly view of it, bookmark our Top Searches page and see where it goes from here.

--Ken Grobe
Content Product Manager
Ask.com

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December 03, 2007

Britney, Boxing Day, and Biology: December Smart Answers

We're rounding the bend...heading into the home stretch...wrapping our fruitcakes and otherwise preparing for the new year. Let Smart Answers fuel the last mad dash that is December 2007.

Recently Added Smart Answers:

Cell Biology: Because no one wants to get their Golgi Apparatus mixed up with their Vacuole. Am I right, people?

Election 2008: Plenty of info on the Primaries and the candidates themselves.

Nobel Prizes: Last month we gave you the history and the latest winners; now we have each winner by year.

Smart Answers for Important November Dates

12/1: Woody Allen.

12/2: The pride of Kentwood, LA, Britney Spears.

12/3: Ozzy Osbourne.

12/5: Hanukkah begins.

12/7: Pearl Harbor Day.

12/9: Margaret Hamilton. And your little dog, too!

12/12: Old Blue Eyes.

12/18: Old Red Eyes, aka Keith Richards.

12/22: Maurice AND Robin Gibb. What're the odds?

12/25: Christmas Day.

12/26: Boxing Day. Also, first day of Kwanzaa.

12/29: Texas becomes a state.

12/30: Mike Nesmith. Why not? He's trying to change the world. What'd YOU accomplish this year?

12/31: New Year's Eve.

 

UK Smart Answers for December:

And now, the latest Smart Answers, courtesy of Ask UK Product Manager Cris Tyler:

Remembrance Sunday: The one day in the year when fighting politicians forget their differences & join the rest of us in remembering those fallen during numerous wars & conflicts.

iPhone UK: The so-called product of the year hits UK shores. Sales were reported as being ‘strong’ despite Apple’s aggressive contractual inflexibility. The Apple hard-core queued all night to bite the bullet regardless, whether the great unwashed will embrace the iPhone remains to be seen.

Ask.com’s UK TV adverts: Re-live the recent thought-provoking & award-winning UK TV ad campaign for Ask.com.

RIBA Stirling Prize: Named after the famous British architect James Stirling (1926-1992), this prestigious prize highlights the most significant efforts to assist the evolution of architecture in the past year.

Christmas Recipes: A Smart Answer aimed to answer the tens of thousands of panic-fueled searches we get during the run-up to Christmas as the culinarily unacquainted get hideously out of their depth.

Thanks, Cris, and thanks to everyone who's sent us e-mail thanking us for these Smart Answers updates. See you next year!

--The Ask.com Smart Answers Team

 

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