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 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?



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


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.



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!"


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



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.



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.


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




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.


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.



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.



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

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October 31, 2007

Introducing the New Ask Maps UK

Our goal: to get more people to use Ask UK's Maps service. Our solution: introduce a new version, with new features. Now, thanks to a joint effort across several Ask.com offices, we've succeeded in delivering an Ask Maps service well worth talking about, with features that we think will have you coming back for more.

Bringing the US Along for the Ride

When you work with teams that cross boundaries, it’s often little details that take the longest to get right. In the UK, when you come off a motorway, you call it a "junction;" in the US you call it an "exit." And when it comes to prioritizing landmarks like museums and other points of interest in our search results, we worked closely with our US development team to advise them as to the more popular UK sites.

In addition to the new features, we've extended Ask Maps to cover the UK and Ireland. So if you're planning an Autumn trip around the British Isles, make sure you give it a go.

Driving You Sane

You can give our new driving directions up to ten different destinations and it will plot a route between them.

Getting There On Foot

If you are more of the urban walking persuasion, try the walking directions. Just tell it where you want to go and it'll show you how to get from A to B.

(BTW, Google/Yahoo!/MSN Live Maps do not provide walking directions. Nice!)

Landmark Assistance

Our UK map plots not only streets, but several thousand points of interest. Ask UK Maps cover museums (try the National Gallery), historic buildings (go for the Tower of London), parks (a stroll in Regent's Park, perhaps?) and many others.

Tube Vision

If walking through London is wearing you out, take the underground! The tube stations are marked on our maps (they are the little red circles with a blue line across them).

Get a Birds-Eye Perspective With Aerial View

If you want to know what things look like before you even get there, use the satellite imagery. Just click on the "Aerial" link and zoom right in. If you like the picture a lot, you can even buy it! Just click on the "BuyPoster" link.

And remember, you can also bookmark a map view that you like, email it to a friend or print the driving directions. Click on the options on the top right-hand side of the map.

UK Maps, Smarter Than Ever

Now you can start your city searches right from the Ask UK home page. Type in the name of any major UK city on our web search, and you will get a Smart Answer with not only a link to the map, but a whole lot of other information, like links to local travel traffic information, tourist advice and virtual tour.

When you have a project team spread over four or five different geographical locations and several time zones--on a product with very specific local quirks--it's quite a challenge. But the team worked hard to make it happen, and on time too!

--Koji Kawano and Daniel Mermelstein
International Product Management
Ask UK

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September 28, 2006

How's The Weather Down There?

Our Ask.com office is a very busy place. This week we have two feature enhancements to alert you to.

We've revamped some of our Weather Smart Answers and Weather overview pages to provide you with even more info.

For a deep example of our new features, try a search for weather Washington DC.

Our new and enhanced page offers a new cleaner look, satellite and radar imagery, a seven day forecast, and real time alerts.

So, let's say Washington DC is undergoing a weather advisory, it will be listed (in real time) either right within the initial Smart Answer result or within the Ask.com Weather channel up on the left side of the page.

Of course, all of our other weather-related Smart Answers remain available.

For example we offer:

* Current weather
* 12 month climate info (search by city name or Zip Code)
* Detailed Weather Reports provide not only a quick forecast but additional weather data. Again, search by city name or Zip Code.

Lots of our weather data is available on a global scale. So from Stuttgart, Germany to Regina, Saskatchewan to Christchurch, New Zealand, we have the information.

Now here's the scoop on the second feature we've launched today.

For quite some time Ask.com has provided a real time feed of earthquakes happening around the world. A simple search for earthquakes brings up the latest earthquake info with location, date, time, and magnitude. You'll also spot a box where you can limit your search. For example, earthquakes Indonesia. Of course, you could also do this from the main search box. You'll also see links for "all earthquakes" (in a list form) and weather conditions at or near the location you've searched.

So, what's new today?

Now when you run a basic search for "earthquakes", click on the Area Earthquakes Activity link and in very short order, you'll have a map with each earthquake visible on the map as a red circle. On the left side of the page, a text list of each quake is provided. The location is hyperlinked. You can also get info about the quake by clicking the various numbers on the map.

Check these new features out and let us know what you think. We think they are pretty cool.

The Ask.com Team

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May 31, 2006

Ask.com Maps: Aerial Europe

The first thing people usually try to do with our mapping product is look for an aerial shot of their house or where they grew up. Call it "vanity searching" for maps.  Being from the Netherlands, that was a difficult proposition with all of the existing products out there. But with the launch of our Maps that is no longer the case. 

Here is a shot of the town I grew up in.

Universiteit Tu Eindhoven
Here is the university I went to in Eindhoven.

Working on our aerial maps makes it hard to get homesick. :)

Some quick facts about Eindhoven: It is the city where electronics giant Philips was founded in 1891, Jan de Bont was born there, and it is home of the soccer team PSV Eindhoven.

Not only do we have great maps coverage for the Netherlands, but also for a lot of Western Europe and even parts of Northern and Eastern Europe. We hope to cover the entire world at some point, but this is a great start for our users in Europe. 

Here are some other interesting shots:

The Louvre

Houses of Parliament

Canals of Amsterdam

Buckingham Palace

Eiffel Tower

Charles De Gaulle Airport

Take a look around and let us know if you spot anything interesting.

Michiel Frishert
Ask.com Site Research and Development

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