After surveying users, Ask discovered that what people wanted was faster, more accurate searching with correct results first time. Should we be surprised?
The revamped pages take the to web today in the US (20th October in the UK) and in terms of looks, there appears to be little difference with the Yanky version on the left in the image below and Blighty’s on the right.
Jeeves the butler is still absent after his redundancy in 2006 – he was last seen auditioning for a role in the Privilege ads – and his fee appears to have gone to the engineers who have been concentrating on how to give more relevant results to the direct question format.
According to Ask’s research, 15% of their queries were written as direct questions compared to only 5% on Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft Live Search but then that could be a result of how users think they are supposed to use the Ask site rather than the direct question being the preferred way to search.
The BBC managed to squeeze a bit more out of the European managing director of Ask, Cesar Mascaraque, who said:
“The 20 year-old is never going to use us and, you know what, I don’t care.”
Well, I doubt the 20-year-old cares either, Cesar. Of course, the only problem is what happens 30 years later when that 20-year-old is within Ask’s 35-55 target group? If they’ve given up on taking the likes of Google on – and I’m not saying the shouldn’t have – then, they’d better start finding some new branches of their business or they’ll have run out of customers in 20 year’s time.
As it stands, Ask’s market share has held steady at 2%, which is no mean feat given that Google occupies 80% of the pie, but it’ll be interesting to see how they survive along with many others who are searching for more niche alternatives.