Ask.com is a web search engine with a question-answer format, founded in 1995 by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen. The site was originally known as AskJeeves.com and the website was built around software designed by Gary Chevsky.
The idea behind Ask.com is for searchers to be able to find answers to questions formed in everyday language. Early on, the site was a question-and-answer search engine only, however the site briefly attempted providing algorithmic search results in competition with Google when Barry Diller, CEO of IAC, bought the site. This came to an end in 2010 as Ask.com simply could not compete with Google, and the site reverted back to focusing primarily on being a question-and-answers site. The site does, however, still offer search on it site, but this is powered by an index from another company.
The site’s original name, AskJeeves, came from its use of a character named Jeeves, who was supposedly a sort of valet that brought you the answers to any questions you had. The character is, of course, based on Reginald Jeeves, a character in the literature of P.G. Widehouse. You might be more familiar with the TV series Jeeves and Wooster, where the character Jeeves was played by the likes of Arthur Treacher, Dennis Price and Stephen Fry.
In 2005 Ask announced that they would be slowly removing the Jeeves character, and had fully removed him by 2006, saying he was “going into retirement”. In 2009, however, he was brought back to the UK and Ireland websites.
Over the years, a number of additional features have been added to the Ask site. In 2006, for example, Ask added the “Binoculars Site Preview” feature into search results, allowing searchers to hover over a symbol causing a preview screen-rip of the page to pop up.
Later, In 2007, Ask released the AskEraser feature. This feature gives users the option of opting out from tracking of search queries, and IP and cookie values. Even if this has not been opted for, Ask said they would erase this data after 18 months regardless.
In 2010, Ask released a Q&A service, as part of an effort to return to their roots after their failure at competing against Google as a search engine. This included an iPhone app for the service, which included a “Nearby Answers” service where you could ask the question to local people only, perhaps if the question is only relevant to those in your area.
Ask have received some significant criticism over the years, primarily related to their Ask Toolbar. The Ask Toolbar is a web-browser add-on that adds an extra bar to the window/menu. The controversy with the toolbar is that it is often unintentionally installed and then notoriously difficult to remove – making it a type of malware. Ask, however, state that there are instructions for removing the toolbar on the Ask.com Help Center.
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