A Married Womans Search Engine
Sullivan dismissed Graham's comments as after-the-fact spin, noting that most of the coverage he's read in the mainstream press supports a common theme that Ask.com is targeting women with a question-answering service. "Ask hasn't really budged the needle before on general searchers," Sullivan told eWEEK. "To focus more tightly is going to pigeonhole them. They're probably already pretty freaked that a general audience is now going to dismiss them as the 'married woman's search engine,' and that goes right back to them clearly not having their heads around what it takes to compete in the space now. Because you would never, ever let that kind of message go out."This system recalls the Ask Jeeves search engine the company launched with in 1996. Rather than entering just a single search term, users would type in a full-length question and Ask Jeeves would provide answers. Graham said the company will go beyond the traditional question-and-answer approach of Ask Jeeves by providing search that will not only be "visually compelling, but will crawl user-generated content to help inform and build out the search engine." Though he stopped short of calling it social search-or relying on the collective search queries of previous users-many search engines large and small are heading in that direction. "A lot of people come to us and type in questions," he said. "We need to build it out and build around that and blow it out a lot more." Graham said the company is hiring new people to help it with this new business direction.
Meanwhile, Graham stressed the company is not "pulling the plug" on its Teoma search engine, but will build it out to help users find answers based on questions, not just keyword queries.