Ask.com Relaunches, But Is Mum On Mobile Component - InformationWeek

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6/6/2007
10:24 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Ask.com Relaunches, But Is Mum On Mobile Component

Ask.com (you know, that other search site) relaunched itself yesterday with much hullabaloo, crowing about its new design, new algorithms, and customizable home page. In combing the official press release, the word "mobile" doesn't appear once. Does Ask not care about the growing importance of mobile search?

Ask.com (you know, that other search site) relaunched itself yesterday with much hullabaloo, crowing about its new design, new algorithms, and customizable home page. In combing the official press release, the word "mobile" doesn't appear once. Does Ask not care about the growing importance of mobile search?What struck me as strange is that one of the new features of the Ask portal is location-based service:

Ask3D now offers Smart Answer search results based on a person's location. When people use Ask3D to search for "Starbucks," they will see the locations nearest to them. When searching for "Gwen Stefani," Ask3D lets people know when she is performing locally.

Even in this paragraph, Ask doesn't reference mobile devices. We can only assume that the location-based services are relative to the location of the PC performing the search, not a mobile phone.

With all the noise Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have made about their mobile search plans in the last few months, I find Ask's lack of a mobile plan to be puzzling. Over the Air blogger Stephen Wellman just told us yesterday how mobile search is driving mobile data usage in the United States. Is Ask not interested in this part of the business? Maybe that's why Ask is the fifth-ranked mobile search engine, with just 5.1% of the market (compared with Google's 49.7%).

Just for the hell of it, I fired up the browser on my mobile phone and went to Ask.com. The WAP version of Ask looks eerily similar to Google's and Yahoo's mobile search pages. I performed a search for "Mesa Boogie" (what can I say, I am a tube amp junkie) and was rewarded with a solid number of results. Then I went to Ask.com on my computer and performed the same search. (The interface is nice, by the way. Less utilitarian and more stylized than Google's.) The results of the search were exactly the same. Then I did the same set of searches on Google's mobile and standard versions. The top results were the same, even down to the sponsored results. Ask provided some interesting additional bits of into, though, including links to some of Mesa Boogie's competitors, dealers, and even one of Mesa Boogie's most well-known endorsers. These additional items also were available on the mobile search.

The mobile interface may not be as slick as its new home page, but Ask was just as useful on my mobile device as Google or Yahoo. So why isn't Ask pushing its mobile services?

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