Ask.coms users may not have time to fully absorb the search engines revised Ask 3D service because it will be following that act in the next six to 12 months with "collective search."
Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone said collective search is a way of improving the relevance of search results by using the feedback of its 50 million users to know what results were the most useful, when, and in what situation.
Lanzone discussed collective search during his keynote at the SES (Search Engine Strategy) show Aug. 21 in San Jose, Calif., where representatives from search powers Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL and others with stakes in the multibillion-dollar market convened.
The CEO drilled down into the companys plans for the emerging technology during a phone call with eWEEK Aug. 24.
The concept is part of Ask.coms Edison project, which includes a new search algorithm and a patented technology for click popularity that uses user feedback to alter the order of search results.
The company said that collective search will better help users find what they are looking for with the help of "bread crumbs," which store pages that users visit in the search toolbar, left by some of Ask.coms 50 million monthly users.
Click here to read more about Ask.coms 3D search service.
Lanzone compared the concept to Wikipedia.org, where thousands of people are writing editorial encyclopedia entries on topics.
"As we roll things out, with our Edison algorithm that were working on, it really becomes a 50 million person edited search engine," Lanzone said. "Our technologies put up our best first guess and our users, through their usage, leave bread crumbs for the people coming after them across billions of searches a year."
Moreover, Lanzone expects Ask.com to do "micro-versions" of collective search, so that results can be further honed by people who have similar interests. This concept is similar to social networks, where users can meet members of groups. By joining one of these collectives, users will be able to improve search relevance for not only themselves, but those who follow.
Lanzone provided a practical, albeit hypothetical, scenario for how collective search would work in reference to the SES show he spoke at.
"Lets say you typed in Danny Sullivan and youre the average person. Thats a famous racecar driver," Lanzone said. "But if youre part of the Internet marketing collective ... your results will be filtered in a way that very likely Danny Sullivan, the Internet marketing guru, would come up first."
The seeds for collective search were sewn in Ask 3D, which breaks from the classic search engine interface mold.
Ask 3D combines search with content that resembles the kind of information one might find on social networking sites. Once a search query is entered, users are presented with a plethora of information, including news, photos and links to other content, all from the same page, and in three columns.
Lanzone believes this approach not only reduces the amount of time it takes for users to find a better answer, but offers a big preference toward content over advertisements on the page.
More broadly, Lanzone believes Ask 3D and collective search will help the company move up the search ladder, noting that if the company continues to innovate at its current pace, good things will happen with growth, which will beget increases in market share.
Read more here about comScores July 2007 search rankings.
ComScore ranked the Ask Network fourth behind Google, Yahoo and Microsoft in its latest July search stats, with 4.7 percent of the total search market.
"Having 5 percent of the search market is like having 5 percent of the GDP," Lanzone quipped.
Ask.com did enjoy a big boost in the ASCI customer satisfaction index rankings. The companys scores increased 6 percent, better than any other search engine.
Lanzone also said Ask.com is working on a new multibillion-dollar, multi-tear advertising deal, but did not provide specifics as to who was a front-runner in the race.
Ask.com has inked two contracts with Google since 2002, relying on the search rival for sponsored links. The current deal with Google expires at the end of 2007.
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