July 02, 2008

Ask.com is Grillin' and Chillin' for the 4th of July

For some the 4th of July is all about fireworks and going to the beach. Grilling fans know better. It’s all about grillin' and chillin'. So, Ask.com decided to get to the “meat” of the matter and find out who came out on top this year -- the hamburger or hot dog?

According to Ask.com’s online searches, the answer is clear: hamburgers outweigh hot dogs in popularity by 33%!

Not to forget about something sweet to finish off the BBQ, we wanted to test the adage that there’s “nothing more American than apple pie,” and a look at our recent recipe searches proves that it’s absolutely true. Apple most certainly reins supreme accounting for 42% of all recent pie searches. Other fresh seasonal favorites that round out the top three are Key Lime and Strawberry Rhubarb, perfect for summer celebrations and get togethers.

Check out our complete list of the most popular pies on Ask.com:

Ask.com's Top 10 Pie Searches
1.  Apple
2.  Key Lime
3.  Strawberry Rhubarb
4.  Pecan
5.  Peach
6.  Blueberry
7.  Pumpkin
8.  Lemon Meringue
9.  Coconut Cream
10. Banana Cream

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January 23, 2008

Give Me Some Skin: Ask Gets More Personal

So. You're reading the Ask.com blog, which means you've been to Ask.com, which probably means you've seen our Skins feature.
Western Sky skin on Ask.com

Introduced when we launched Ask3D last year, Skins allows you to change the design of the Ask.com homepage. It was a small part of the whole Ask3D package, but it's quickly become popular on a millions-of-people level, all skinning to their hearts' content.

And many skins users requested upgrades--the most-requested one being the ability to allow them to upload their own images.

Today, we're happy to announce just that upgrade.

All you have to do is use the new upload feature on Skins.

Let's say you have a really sweet photo, like this one we took of the team that worked on the Skins project, and you want to add it to the Ask homepage.
Original image you want to make a homepage skin

Click the Skins bubble on the Ask homepage:
Click the Skins bubble on the Ask.com homepage

Click the "Upload Your Own" button to reveal the upload dialog.
Upload Ask.com homepage skin - Step 1

You can select an image from your computer or enter an image URL. I have this image on my computer, so I used the browse button to find it. Don't forget to the check the box that Legal team made us add; then click the "I Agree" button.

Upload Ask.com homepage skin - Step 2
Now you can decide on a name for your skin, which color text to use, and where you would like the skin aligned on the homepage.

Here are some examples of different anchor points:
Crop your Ask.com homepage skin - example
Crop your Ask.com homepage skin - example
Crop your Ask.com homepage skin - example

Once you're done, click the "Next" button to confirm your new skin.
Upload Ask.com homepage skin - Final Step

Does everything look OK to you? If not, you can always go back and make some changes. I like mine the way it is, so I'm going to click the "Use This Skin Now" button and just like magic: the Ask homepage is my own!
Upload Ask.com homepage skin - Finished Example

Browsing Skins

Or maybe you're the kind of person who appreciates variety. We've also added more images to our library and introduced the ability to easily browse them--including the skins you've uploaded yourself. Just go to http://skins.ask.com  or click the "See All Skins" button in the Skins bubble on the homepage.
Browse Ask.com homepage skins

It's so easy to use, what more is there to say?

Enjoy!

Erik Collier
Director of Product Management
Ask.com

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January 03, 2008

Ask.com Mobile: Voice-Activated Directions Show You the Way

We talk a lot around here about the Mobile Web and making mobile search faster, better. Admittedly, it's easy to get excited about the different features and capabilities of all the new pimped out devices, but at the core every mobile phone does one thing inherently well: transmit the human voice.

I am excited about our first step in integrating voice with Ask.com Mobile. Today, we've added a new option to our Directions service called Click to Speak. The feature lets Ask.com Mobile users enter addresses by speaking instead of keying them in. With just a click, users can activate a voice activated directions service and within seconds receive a text message with a link to directions.

The new capability incorporates technology from our East Bay neighbors, Dial Directions.

Here's how the new feature works:

1) Use your web-enabled mobile device to go to Ask.com (either http://www.ask.com or http://m.ask.com).

Step 1

2) Click the "Directions" link on the home page and click the "SPEAK your address" option.

Step 2

3) Hit the continue button to start the call and follow the voice prompts to speak your location and destination. You can use specific addresses or intersections.

Step 3

4) Almost instantly you will receive a text message with a link to your directions. You can view them in either a traditional list mode or turn-by-turn step format complete with visual cues.  You can also toggle between "driving" and "walking" routes.

It's that easy. No more mis-typing an address while on your way to that important business meeting! No more typing with your thumbs while trying to find your friend's birthday party!

Intrigued? Check out the video:

Ask Mobile with Dial Directions

Or better yet, try it out yourself.

Brendan Hallett
Product Manager
Ask.com Mobile

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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 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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September 27, 2007

AskCity and Entertainment Publishing : A Real Two-for-One Deal

If you've read any of our previous posts about AskCity, you know it's the kind of local search that's sure to save you time. Now, it can even save you money.

How? Enter IAC sister company Entertainment Publications, Inc. You might know them as the company who puts out the annual Entertainment coupon books. (My personal favorite: the discounted movie ticket coupons).

We've partnered with them to provide their coupons with our AskCity search results. Their coupon books are targeted to each city, which made them an ideal match with us. See a coupon you want? A free 14-day no-obligation trial gets you the coupon PLUS access to their whole coupon database: dining, shopping, mani-pedis...the whole local magilla.

For example:

Midas, Los Angeles
Omni Berkshire Place Hotel, New York
Flavor of India, Seattle
KB Toys, San Francisco

So the next time you do an AskCity search, keep an eye out for the Entertainment coupons--where, and when, you can really use them.

--The AskCity Team

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August 24, 2007

SES San Jose LIVE / SearchBash!

Thursday night's SearchBash,   presented by us and WebmasterRadio.FM,   was a three-ring circus without the rings.

Here's a shot of the Ask gang in the VIP area: (L to R) Product Manger Sven Rossbach, Me, SVP Corporate Communications Mary Osako, CEO Jim Lanzone, Director of Online Information Resources Gary Price, and Senior Product Manager Kapil Raina.

There was a DJ playing mash-ups of 1970s hits and 2007 hits, Marilyn Monroe and MC Hammer impersonators working the crowd, ladies in little black dresses with trays of kamikaze shots, and a live band playing classic rock. At some point hula hoops were taken out on the dance floor. Hopefully that, and these photos, tell the rest of the story.

Ken Grobe
Content Product Manager
Ask.com

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August 22, 2007

SES San Jose LIVE / Upcoming Panels with Peter Linsley

Here's a quick plug for a few Ask.com panels that feature our Sr. Product Manager, Peter Linsley, from Peter himself. Check out this schedule for all the remaining Ask.com panels.

One of the many fun parts of my job is reviewing websites for how they are structured, what content they offer, how users interact with them and most of all, what kind of new and interesting spam tactics might be lurking under the hood. These are all important factors that directly affect your ability to get crawled, indexed and ultimately rank in our search engine.

I'll be on three panels at SES San Jose, covering some of the more important aspects of basic good SEO:

Wednesday, August 22:
1:30pm-2:45pm
Duplicate Content & Multiple Site Issues

4:45pm-6:00pm
Search Engine Q&A On Links

Thursday August 23:
10:45am-12:00pm
Meet the Crawlers

These Q&A heavy sessions provide a great chance to get up to speed and have all your questions surrounding these issues directly addressed. I'll be milling around the other presentations at the conference so don't hesitate to stop me if you have any specific questions regarding your site and Ask.com

Cheers,

--Peter

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