April 30, 2010
Testing a New Homepage
Some of you may have noticed a few changes to our homepage recently as we've recently started testing new versions of our site that highlight our focus on Q&A. As part of the test we are more prominently featuring the Question of the Day and three popular questions. The promotional units we introduced in January have proven popular with partners such as Autism Speaks, Avatar, Best Buy, Chili's, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure and so we created a 300x250 ad unit that will allow for larger and more interactive advertisements for our users without diminishing their experience. You'll also notice some other changes including a new background hue that you can customize by installing one of the themes from the gallery. In the header we have added links to our Web, Images, and Videos services. As we mentioned in November, we are focused on providing the best question answering service available; the new design will allow us more flexibility to offer new features that we are hard at work on and hope to share more information about in the near future. If you haven't yet seen the changes don't worry, you will soon. Let us know what you think of the new design and stay tuned for more to come!
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:
2) Click the "Directions" link on the home page and click the "SPEAK your address" option.
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.
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:
Or better yet, try it out yourself.
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?
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:
Product Content Manager
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?
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
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
ASK INTRODUCES ASK MOBILE GPS
The tangy wholesomeness of Ask Mobile met the great tastes of Citysearch, Evite,
and even a GPS service. Mobilicious.
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.
ASK SCORES BIG IN CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
The University of Michigan gave us top marks in their American
Customer Satisfaction Index. Which ain't hay.
ASK MAPS UK LAUNCHES
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 &
ASK & GOOGLE SIGN MULTI-YEAR DEAL
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.
Thanks to everyone for their support this year, and stick around--you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Product Content Manager
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.
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.
Senior Product Manager
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:
Have you heard the spots? Do you like them? Drop a comment into this post and let us know.
Product Content Manager
December 04, 2007
Our Search Top 10's for 2007
"If you want to see how a society thinks, look at what it searches
--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
5. Area Codes
9. Song Lyrics
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
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
5. American Idol
6. Big Brother
7. Gilmore Girls
8. South Park
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.
Content Product Manager
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:
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.
12/12: Old Blue Eyes.
12/18: Old Red Eyes, aka Keith Richards.
12/25: Christmas Day.
becomes a state.
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:
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.
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.
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
October 02, 2007
Tricks, Treats, Diets and Hurricanes: October Smart Answers
October! It's time for Sukkot, Halloween, and the first tentpole holiday movies. Make sure your Sukkah-building and pumpkin-carving skills are up to par and your evening calendar is open! Let's see where Smart Answers take us this month:
Recently Added Smart Answers:
The Wonders of the World: What, did you think there were only seven of them? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Great Wall of China, and twelve, yes twelve, more. Use the drop-down menu to see them all.
Hurricane Dean: The low-down on the fourth big storm of the season.
New Movies: What do you need to know about Angels in the Dust, 3:10 to Yuma, Banished, Outsourced, The Rocket, and more of this season's best? Smart Answers will show you--and help you find screenings in your area.
Smart Answers for Important October Dates
10/4: Charlton Heston.
10/13: Lenny Bruce.
10/18: Chuck Berry.
10/20: Snoop Dogg.
10/21: Alfred Nobel.
10/23: Johnny Carson.
10/26: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
10/28: Bill Gates.
10/31: Halloween, of course!
More next month!
--The Ask.com Smart Answers Team
August 22, 2007
SES San Jose LIVE / Day 3: SEO Panelist Secrets
So I was chatting with a couple other Askickers at the conference, and one of us, Senior Product Manager Kapil Raina, pointed out a fascinating aspect of the show:
Some of the SEOs on the panels have been optimizing their own presentations.
They're taking advantage of fact that their presentations are being recorded, either in audio, in transcripts, or in blogs. Two of those media (maybe all three) are searchable online--so the SEOs are using keywords in their talks that will show up when being crawled and searched.
Their slides are sprinkled with their sites' keywords, and speak to the the SEOs' expertise.
Lastly, at the end of their presos, many are offering links to the Powerpoint decks & content from their presentations--on their own sites--even though the presos are offered on the SES site. The links are subdomains on their own sites--which allows them to track their leads.
What have we learned from this? If you're ever looking for real-world examples of SEO, just look to the SEOs themselves.
My Day 3 Recap is going to have to wait a day, as Ask is sponsoring a party and I have to represent. Have a great night.