I rarely write about work. Only a handful of times did I discuss my employment with Google, and in those instances it was more about the fact that I was in China or Australia for business (or that Google Analytics, the product I worked on, was returning some very interesting queries on how people came to my website.) I prefer to keep work at work, and my life – and this blog – separate. Though I feel compelled to break my own rule today to highlight a new, outstanding change to the world of Search. Ask.com – my company (see ‘slightly biased’ above) released Ask3D last evening, a new interface that, in my – not to mention those far smarter and influential than my – opinion(s), could change the way we search. Without getting into too much shoptalk here, I wanted to highlight a few things.
Over the past few years, we’ve learned how to search, how to refine our queries, how to be strategic in the way we ask a question or provide a statement, knowing that we’re interfacing with a machine, and that machine works by a set of rules. Google’s "rules" (aka, their algorithm) is different than Ask’s, which in turn is different than Yahoo or MSN or any other search technology out there. We’ve been trained by this technology to refine and revise until we find what we’re looking for; on average, I’ve heard that it takes around four queries to find your desired result. Ask3D changes that, and in a way that’s not only intuitive, but efficient.
Let’s look at a screen shot: this one for one of my favorite actors, Michael Vartan:
You’ll see on the left (where they moved the search box, increasing the number of results you have in the middle) options to narrow or expand your search. It even provides you with related names, including Jennifer Garner, who he used to date. NEAT.
In the middle, there are the unique-to-Ask’s "Binoculars" that allow you to roll over them with your cursor and see a sample of the site. Also neat.
My favorite part is on the right, providing Images, a Wikipedia definition, and even related blogs. The wealth of information coming from ONE QUERY makes me wonder why nobody did this long ago. Yes, it reduces the number of queries, but in a positive way; I can spend the additional time drooling at how hot he is instead of trolling through images. (BTW, take a glance at the "Images" section alone – you can refine these results and specify size, file type, black & white photos – everything. VERY helpful when you’re creating a stalker collage of your future moviestar boyfriend. So I hear…)
Other queries yield even cooler results; this time, I wanted to find out about one of my favorite bands, "The Hold Steady" (who I saw in concert last week and who rocked my proverbial socks off). The results were even more exciting:
Not only do you get a "Smart Answer" right on top (one of my favorite features that Ask.com does) but you can save it to "My Stuff" and bookmark it with one click. That’s cool, and all, but the thing that blows me away is the "Popular Tracks" section on the right pane. You can preview the songs through iLike.com (recently purchased by Ticketmaster, also an IAC property) – this plays instantly, links to recent tour dates, and after the song clip, even begins playing the next song. Of course, you’re offered the chance to purchase the tracks and even save it to an iLike profile if you want. As a music snob (read: obsessed) this makes me only one step down from elated.
I’m not going to even TOUCH the fact that The Algorithm (yes, those billboards you may have seen while stuck in traffic or online) is constantly improving, and don’t be daunted by the fact that your "vanity search" isn’t as ego-stroking as you’d like (searching on my first name only doesn’t give me the excitement of being the fifth most popular ‘aubrey’ in the world as it does on Google, though "Aubs" still does). It will continue to improve. And, after all, if I can get over my ego, I know you can, too.
So try it out. See what you think. I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised.