Ask.com has sharpened the relevance of its search results, made the engine faster and simplified the site's layout, said Ask.com President Scott Garrell.
"The strategy from a product perspective is to provide the best answer the first time, everytime," Garrell said. "We want to reduce the distance between your query and the answer you want."
If Ask.com can consistently provide direct answers in its search results page, Garrell believes it will grow its user base. It generally takes people 3 to 4 clicks in any search engine to get the desired information, he said.
Behind the scenes, Ask.com's makeover includes an improved ability to extract data from Web pages; to mix in a wider variety of result types like photos, news, images and videos; and to tap a broader pool of data sources for queries about entertainment, jobs, health and reference information.
With this upgrade Ask.com, owned by IAC, is also aiming to recapture the functionality that gave it its prominence during its heyday: the ability for people to type in queries in natural language. Ask.com is bringing this functionality back via a question-and-answer feature that uses semantic search technology to interpret the questions and return relevant answers found on the Web, Garrell said.