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Ask Mocks Googling

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Unlike its much more heavily visited search competitor Google, Ask.com has no problem with its brand name being a dictionary word. The search engine industry needs more Scott McNealy-style chippiness between its respective companies.

Ask Mocks Googling
Looking For Something On The Web? Ask It!

After Google expounded at length about its fear of being rendered a generic word, Michael Ferguson at Ask turned in a response that tweaked Google:

As our colleagues at Google work to protect their brand from becoming a generic term for Web search, we’re receiving lots of mail and calls asking us to clarify the difference between “ask” and “Ask” (as in “Ask.com”)

Funny you should ask.

The origin of “ask” goes back to Old English, and back from there to the Germanic languages and then even further back….So “ask” is an old word. And it’s used all the time. As you can imagine, it’s proven very costly for us (both in time and money) to define its usage and keep tabs on who’s doing what where and with whom.


Ferguson then runs down various “Rules” on using Ask and ask before helpfully showing some real-life, real-time “Usage” examples:

Usage: The upper-case “Ask” as verb, referring to a Web search conducted on Ask.com.

Example: I pulled up Ask.com to Ask “pumpkin pie recipes.”

Usage: The lower-case “ask” as verb, referring to posing a question.

Example: If I may be so bold as to ask, will you join me in the Jacuzzi?


Observe the thoughtful consideration of the Jacuzzi registered mark in the previous sentence.

If the Google poking was not clear enough, Ferguson added an example in “More Fun with Verbs” that should make it pretty evident he isn’t talking about Microsoft here:

Halloween Example: “Looking for a swell Halloween costume, Sergey went to Ask and Asked “Halloween costume ideas” and received a Smart Answer at the top of the results page.” Good work, Sergey, and good luck with your Olympic swimmer costume!


In all seriousness, Ask has steadily improved its search and associated resources over the past year. The company still brings in a vastly smaller share of search queries than its major competitors.

They have made small incremental gains in search share, but have yet to break six percent despite a media marketing campaign that promotes the site in TV and radio ads. Ask does have InterActiveCorp as its parent company, which placed Ask on sites like Ticketmaster and Citysearch.

Search habits have become ingrained over the past few years. While that certainly frustrates companies aspiring to be more like Google, it is encouraging to see Ask striving to offer a better solution with information at people’s fingertips. And having some fun with it.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

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