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!

Tony Gentile

SVP, Product

A14 clean


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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?


Erik Collier
Director of Product Management

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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

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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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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

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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:


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

Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager

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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

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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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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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