ASK Away

Ask And We Shall Answer…

Children are brought up on the heartwarming tale of The Little Engine That Could. In this Internet age, many people hearing engine would assume we’re talking search engines. … and perhaps it really is about to happen in real life.

The engine we are referring to is ASK. It’s the perfect domain for something that will provide answers to your question. The only contender might be, and that inexplicably is not used at all. Perhaps the strength of the choice is best illustrated by the Public Library Services of the National Library Board Singapore. They’ve decided to use the name ASK! for their Advisory & Enquiry service for Children, Teens & Adults. It’s unlikely that ‘!’ will work as well for them as it has done for Yahoo! Yahoo! had no real competition from the Yahoo barbecue sauce, which they bought eventually. However my guess is that the ASK! service will find many of their clients mis-type and end up at ASK. .. and that’s OK.

This particular little engine has always had one of the best search technologies around. Thankfully it’s been focusing and that should improve its performance. First it got rid of Jeeves, who probably helped little with the US market. Now IAC, the parent, has hived off some confusing search cousins (tip of the hat to Andy Beal) and ASK is the single focus now. Google has been grabbing more and more search share, which has affected Yahoo and MSN/Live. However ASK has managed to hold the big guy at bay.

Gordon Hotchkiss has noted that Ask is finally making a move.

Their “share of search” has moved up from 3.49% of executed searches in August to 4.32% of searches in October, a bump of 23.7%. That’s huge. .. I suspect it has a lot more to do with a great interface and some user generated buzz that’s beginning to catch some ears. But I don’t think Ask is going to stop there. Within 6 months, you’re going to be reading stories all over the web about how Ask bumped Microsoft out of the #3 spot. It will be David vs Goliath, or in this case, Barry (Diller) vs Bill (Gates).

Ask’s strategy has always been to be your first second choice. They don’t ever expect to knock Google out of the lead, but what they want to do is be the place you turn when you find Google just isn’t cutting it. So their move to 3D made a lot of sense. ..

In fact, Marissa Mayer at Google paid the ultimate compliment when she mentioned the likelihood of Google moving to more of a portal, encyclopedia type format sometime in the future. So..that would make Google more like..Ask!

Given that Google is alienating some of its staunchest allies, how all this plays out is going to be highly interesting.

Ask And We Shall Answer… – the chocolate lover’s version