Ask.com started life as just another internet search engines some 15 years ago, and was pretty successful in its time.
Unfortunately life moves on, and the advent of Google and latterly Bing has put such a squeeze on Ask that it had re-launched itself last year as a Q & A Community. The aim for the re-branded search engine was to put the questions its subscribers asked, to experts who might be able to answer. Ask.com proved to be pretty successful in this new guise, but has now announced plans to take it one step further and distinguish it from other competitors.
Only a small proportion of queries entered on any internet search will provide a direct answer: even a Q & A community can’t necessarily answer everything. So Ask.com has now determined that the best way to improve on this is the incorporation of a more social search that includes personalised browsing. The ultimate aim of his personalised browsing is to establish user interests, by means of profiling: in effect Ask.com wants its users to share their profiles through applications like Facebook and LinkedIn so that it can better determine who might be able to answer the questions its users ask.
Jason Rupp, Ask.com’s Director of product Management explained:
“Users give a few pieces of information. We’ll ask if you want to input your details from Facebook or LinkedIn, and we grab certain pieces of your profile information to build a profile for you so we’ll know what questions we think you can answer.”
Based on the information provided, Ask is able to channel any questions to users who profile shows relevant experience or knowledge. The information retained also helps the site identify groups of like-minded individuals who share similar interests, and ultimately these users will then be able to follow each other.
Ask.com’s perspective on the search market is thus far a unique one: others have not yet gone down the road of personalised social search.
It might yet prove to be a successful and shrewd move if it increases traffic and ultimately provides an innovative way to answer its users’ queries.
The flip side of this particular coin, however, is that the disclosure of personal information and data has a habit of leading to what many regard as the curse of modern life – targeted advertising. It stands to reason, if you disclose personal information in a public forum, someone, somewhere will probably try to use that information to sell you the things they think you might be interested in.
Ask.com is surprisingly principled on this issue and has made clear that on no account will the information it receives ever be used in any form of targeted advertising.
Rupp confirmed this at a recent press conference:
“The goal of this feature is to get the right questions and answers from people. All that data is about helping people find information; none of that will be used for advertising.”