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 05, 2007

The Latest 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 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.'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 in theirs as well.'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?'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.'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'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.'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.’s UK TV adverts: Re-live the recent thought-provoking & award-winning UK TV ad campaign for

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 Smart Answers Team


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November 19, 2007

An Ask3D Thanksgiving

What with the success of our last TV campaign, we've learned that the best way to clue you to Ask3D's features is, well, to show them. In honor of the holiday next week, here's a few tools for a better Thanksgiving, courtesy of Enjoy!

Recipe book not doing it for you? Find cooking videos on 

Ask Video Search.

Let Smart Answers save you time by collect the best linksat the top of 

your search results page.

So the whole family's there. What next? Use AskCity to planyour holiday: movies, 

local events, restaurants and more.

Traveling this holiday? Ask Smart Answers can even give you the latest status on 


Use Ask Weather Search to find out if you need that heavy 

jacket after all.

Get the reference you need with Encyclopedia Search.Ask right-rail Smart Answers like News Images help you get the complete picture of 

your Web search.

Check Ask Blog search for all the latest info that the news outlets WON'T tell 

you--like where to do the best holiday shopping!

Found a break between family events and football games? Stay up-do-date on current events 

with Ask News Search.

Happy Turkey,

Ken Grobe
Content Product Manager


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November 01, 2007

Turkey Recipes and Formula One: November Smart Answers

November: Pilgrims, Guy Fawkes, and a lot of Scorpio and Sagittarius birthdays--basically, a busy month. Let Smart Answers save you some time and effort--and if you're not careful, you may learn something before it's done.

Recently Added Smart Answers:

Constellations: A great help for brushing up on your Big Dipper or Virgo. And speaking of the stars...

Horoscopes: Your stars, each and every day, plus links to other astrological resources.

The Nobel Prize: Get the latest winners and a history of this prestigious honor.

Smart Answers for Important November Dates

11/1: Marie Antoinette.

11/3: Adam Ant. What can I say? I'm a New Wave kid.

11/4: Sean "Diddy" Combs.

11/8: HBO premiers. And the stage blood industry is forever changed.

11/12: Grace Kelly and Neil Young.

11/17: Martin Scorsese. And the stage blood industry etc.

11/20: Robert F. Kennedy.

11/22: Thanksgiving Day.

11/25: John F. Kennedy, Jr.

11/26: Charles Schultz. And the stage blood ind--OK, just kidding.

11/30: Winston Churchill. The man whom all babies look like.

UK Smart Answers for November:

It's a volatile month across the pond, what with Guy Fawkes/Bonfire night coming up fast and home-grown Formula One rookie Lewis Hamilton ducking out of the limelight following a nerve-racking end to the 2007 season at The Brazilian Grand Prix. Also on the sporting front, the initial group stages of the UEFA Champions League are under way--and most of the UK clubs are still in with a shout!

Good luck with all those leftovers and see you next month!

--The 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 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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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.

Diets: What better way to counter your annual Halloween candy gluttony? Find health reviews of Atkins, South Beach, and many more, so you can find the one that's best for you.

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

10/1: Julie Andrews. but to me, she'll always be a cross-dressing Polish count.

10/4: Charlton Heston.

10/5: Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds.

10/11: "Saturday Night Live" premiers (with George Carlin as the guest host).

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 Smart Answers Team

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September 11, 2007

AskCity Tips & Tricks

Summer's over and the days are already getting shorter--which means you'll have less time to plan your evenings out. There's no better time to try a few helpful short cuts, courtesy of AskCity:

Embeddable Maps

You've been asking for it--and here it is. AskCity fans can now embed their mapped results into their blogs, web pages, etc.

Want to recommend your favorite Thai restaurants? Just click on the "Embed" link at the top-right of your AskCity results page.

You'll get some HTML code that you can paste into your web site or blog.

Reroutable Maps

AskCity's Maps will always give you the most direct rote to where you want to go. But what if that route is closed off, as happened to us in the Bay Area not three weeks ago?

Using AskCity maps, you can change your route manually and AskCity will recalculate accordingly.

ZIP Code Business Search

Want to know all the pizza places in a certain ZIP code? AskCity will show you an outline of the entire ZIP code, and mark all the pizza places within that immediate vicinity.

We've clued you in to a number of AskCity tricks in the past, including how to draw an area on a map and search within it and how to juice up your AskCity movie searches. And as long as we keep coming up with ways to improve our local search, we'll continue to keep you posted.

--The AskCity Team

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July 11, 2007

Harry Potter: Now in (Ask)3D

I admit it, I'm a huge Harry Potter fan-- looking for the best in fan sites, news, and rumors. And this is a BIG month for us muggles. The seventh and final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, comes out on July 21st, the movie of the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix arrives in theaters today (July 11th), and finally, Harry has a birthday on July 31st (coincidentally also author J. K. Rowling's Birthday).

What does a search engine have to do with all this? Well, it's my way of keeping track of everything about the world that Ms. Rowling created.

On a quest for information about Harry, I've often used the related search feature - there are things other people are thinking about that I'm not. (If you've searched on Severus Snape or Draco Malfoy, we're talking lots of fanfic evidently!) Note: some links that appear may be NSFW or NSFC.

Obviously, I started with standard web search, but to do the serious detective work, I had to specialize.

Collecting Clues

Hint: book covers. There might just be something in the artwork that gives away something about the plot. And as you can see, there's US covers, UK covers...the book covers around the world vary.

Picturing the Characters

I have mental pictures in my head of every character, but I love to see how other people envision them. Using Ask Image search, I found how fans draw some of my favorite characters.

Sirius Black
(illustration by Tealin)

Remus Lupin (illustration by Fiendling)

Finding Movie Stills & Clips

I also get a kick out of the stills from the latest movies. It's one of the first things that pops up in search suggestions as you're searching for images.

Then I used Ask3D to find trailers for the new movie. Then I wanted to see if I could find any additional clips, and stumbled across the trailer from the SciFi Channel in French. Vive le video search!

Shopping for Harryphernalia

Normally it's the kids who get their parents into Harry Potter--not in my house! Suffice to say my whole family is involved. My daughter really wants a chess set. She may need to just save her allowance or wait until her next birthday.

Making Harry Potter Movie Premiere Plans

I have twisted a friend's arm to get pre-release preview passes, it still doesn't compare to seeing the show on opening weekend with a big crowd of fans. So I have plans to see the movie on July 13th. Here in the Bay Area, long waits in line for big movies isn't unheard of (I think it was six hours on Episode III opening night.) Which means, even if the show isn't until 8pm on Friday, I'll need to make certain food options are near where I plan to see the movie. Here's my first cut of looking for places to go that evening.

Making Harry Potter Book Release Plans

On the 20th, I'm considering a Harry Potter-themed dinner party. I'm encouraging costumes, homemade butterbeer, and a possible potion or two. (Felix Felicis, anyone?) And yes, you can find these recipes online. If only I could wait at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream shop.

Then I'll head over to the local bookstore at about 10:30 (more standing in line), to make certain I've got a good spot. I'll head home right after buying it, and jump straight into bed. I will probably read straight thru the night (I will admit to falling asleep at 3am during Half-Blood Prince and waking up at 6am to finish it.). Then I'll write my reviews and email them out to all my friends, minus key spoilers, which leads me to…

Searching For the Ending

Ultimately, we're all looking clues as to how book 7 ends, right? (and you did you know could look for something by ISBN number, right?)

As I said, I've been following the news and blog coverage. Because there's a lot of theories bouncing around. And worries. Will the prophecy come true? Will Voldemort die? Is Snape good or evil? And most importantly, will Harry live?

Ask's news, blog and feed search tools are my own personal rumor mills, I not only can see what the latest posts are, but where to go to read them.

I keep finding new and interesting posts, including several about Harry possibly being a Horcrux that I had to investigate.

Now, back to searching for some Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes; I'd like to find some way to vanish from my office and finish re-reading all six books before the madness begins.

Aside from that, I'm well prepared. Accio, Harry!

Carla Borsoi
Director of Research & Analytics

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