Ask, The Convergence Engine

Who Can Bring A New Dimension To Your Web Searches?

Ask Ask.

Oakland-based Ask has long been an innovator in the search engine industry yet has still struggled behind global leader Google but that may very well change.

Today, Tuesday, June 5, introduces a dynamic method of displaying search results. The northern California based search company now sorts results you ask for into three vertical panels displayed horizontally on a computer screen rather than stack 10 links the way most major search engines have been showing what you ask for during the last decade.

This better approach now named by Ask as “Ask 3D,” is highlighted by a right-side panel on the screen devoted specifically to relevant items like pictures and multimedia including video and music clips you can play without exiting your current page. At other times an additional panel might display projected weather, blog pieces, or even news sites.

Search results in the third panel relate to the type of search, so sophisticated it is often of interest to the searcher’s geographical location.

An example could be a presidential election query that additionally generates late-breaking news items and perhaps pictures in that third panel. Jim Lanzone, Ask’s chief executive says they are becoming a convergence engine.

This is exactly what you and I want when doing searches, what Lanzone describes as, “The right information from the right source at the right time.”

Oh, happy day – for me anyway. Am I the only one fed up with search engines coughing up what they want you to view, what some quacko paid for in order to hawk a product you could care less about?

Ask’s sites are more compelling to viewers by relying on a new feature that enables visitors to wrap digital photos around the search box. Google started a similar decorative display the big G has named, “skins,” as of last March.

Two months later Google began to insert more action in the form of photos, videos, book references in it’s anchor-results page, hoping to make searches somewhat more helpful.’s 3D however today wins the Search race hands-down. The Ask concept represents the most radical change in the search engine industry. One observer was reported to have described it as, “An attempt to create a new operating system for Internet search.

So far it looks good. This is also a good size risk for Ask, lets hope all web users like it as much as those of us who have tried it so far. It is still a gamble according to Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of obviously feels comfortable with such a gigantic leap of faith, tired of being the underdog in the Search Engine race for users. And it looks like there’s more where this revolution came from, Lanzone is quoted as stating, “It gives us more of a license to experiment and, in this instance, the experiment yielded gold.” has been struggling for more market share since its $2.3 billion sale to e-commerce conglomerate InterActiveCorp two years past. Part of that change brought about abandonment of its familiar logo, thankyouverymuch.

The search engine site began with a logo of a Butler named Jeeves. Jeeves was initially designed to “Ask Jeeves” then direct a user to individuals solicited by Ask to answer your questions. It was a brilliant marketing idea with a terrible record for tracking users then, in my experience anyway, allowing the geniuses with needed answers to later spam Ask visitors.

To Ask’s credit, it would have been marketing brilliance had it been implemented well. Initially designed like the “Chicken Soup” book series, it was meant to appeal to people in large numbers. What made Chicken Soup a bestseller was the fact people-tell-people. Those who submitted personal stories each advised friends, “Hey, I’m in there, tell everybody you know, and buy 10 copies.”

In the past, Ask’s best innovations had been at times copied by engines like Google without the idea paying off for Ask the way it should have. Let’s hope this time such is not the case.

Google has up till now held a solid, almost 50% share of search engine users, Yahoo behind at 26.8%, Microsoft, Media Metrix and the rest straggling behind with low, sometimes single digit numbers.

Lanzone doesn’t expect Ask to hit the top of the search engine list right away. He is certain Ask can alter the Internet Search Engine landscape. Lanzone’s thinking is to let your computer do the walking instead of you being overwhelmed by info you do not want, will generate loyalty to Ask. He equates today’s format as similar to wandering among books, lost, saying, “Ask 3D is trying to bring some order to those books so you can find the good stuff faster.”

The new format is a clean soft gray frame, clear, easy to work with. Personally, I like it. You probably will too. No, this is not a paid announcement, I simply find myself forced to rely on some search engine several times a day so am always on the look out for a better mouse trap – in this case, a better information trap.

Claudia Strasbaugh
Claudia Strasbaugh was a freelance writer who founded Scripps Ranch/Mira Mesa Writer's Guild, was head writer for the weekly TV show "Kill 'EM With Comedy," plus California Bureau Chief for National Lotto World Magazine. Claudia also ran a nonprofit called Dinner On A Dollar. Sadly, Claudia passed away in 2015, but we are pleased to display her writing works.