Ask Morphs Into Ask3D

    June 5, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

If anyone was wondering why IAC put up a $100 million marketing budget behind, the relaunch of the search engine as Ask3D should answer that question.

Ask Morphs Into Ask3D
Ask Morphs Into Ask3D

Gary Price, Ask’s director of online information resources, took us through a lengthy tour of the new Ask, which they have dubbed Ask3D. It uses the company’s new Morph technology, which means each search result page will be different depending on the query a user submits.

If you think this sounds a little like Google’s universal search approach, dismiss the comparison from your mind. Compared to what Ask is doing today, Google’s universal results look like the algorithm vomited data all over the SERPs.

Gary said the new Ask brings a lot to the end users without a lot of effort. The Ask home page offers visual cues to visitors, with icons for various searches displayed above the search box. You’ll see those icons again after doing a search.

As you type in a query, the search box lists suggestions; this was prototyped with AskX. A suggestion can be clicked to kick off the search. That brings back the three-columned search results page, for what Gary called a lot of information on simple results.

The left column contains the options to narrow or expand a search as desired. In the center, sponsored and organic search results are on display. If a relevant Smart Answer is available for a query, it will show up at the top of the column.

Over on the right column we see where Ask’s Morph technology comes into play. Depending on the query, those results could contain images, videos, news, even music tracks if you search for musicians.

Ask can deliver those results by tapping various databases of information. Such content from specialty databases are a particular passion for Gary, a self-described search geek. He said the Morph algorithm finds what it thinks will be of the most value for a query from among the databases it can tap.

There are actually two algorithms in play for a query. The Teoma technology that Ask has owned for some time drives the organic results, while the Morph algorithm comes into play for the right-column ones.

The icons that appear on the main Ask page show up alongside their related Morph results. The visual cue helps reinforce the idea that people can find particular results as desired. In each box of additional results on the right side, a magnifying glass icon can be clicked to allow people to search for more of that type of result (news, video, etc) directly from the page.

Another icon, the binoculars that show up next to regular search results, used to allow people to mouseover them and see a small image of the destination websites from that link. That feature has been updated to what Gary called ‘Binoculars 2.0’.

In addition to the snapshot of the destination site, the binoculars show the load time for the site at 56k, if the site uses Flash, and if it has popups.

Ask created a new feature that shows up when their Smart RSS technology finds a feed associated with the result appearing in the Smart Answer area atop the results page. People can subscribe to the feed right from those results; this feature has been a regular request from Ask users.

The efforts Ask has put forth with Ask3D should save users time, effort, and aggravation, as Gary said. Much of that effort took place with the tuning of metadata associated with content. Even more tweaking took place with the video results Ask can deliver.

When searching for videos, people will see what Ask calls “videos from select sources” first. These are results that reside on more authoritative sites. Doing a mouseover of a video thumbnail causes it to animate. Searchers can expand their search to find videos from all sources by clicking a link.

Ask has been a much more compelling search option for the past couple of years. The Ask3D update has made it even more of one now.