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Search engine Ask gets a facelift

Search engine Ask gets a facelift

Search engine Ask has had another makeover in an effort to gain boost the numbers of people using it.

The relaunch follows the decision to drop its iconic butler at the beginning of 2006 and the introduction of new applications last year.

Ask will be refocusing on its ability to act as the search engine of choice for those asking questions.

Rivals are increasingly looking at ways to set themselves apart from Google in the competitive world of search.

Data from net measurement firm ComScore found that Ask is more often used by people searching for specific answers to questions.

While such questions account for about 5% of queries to Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live Search, it accounts for 15% of Ask's searches.

Four wheels

Ask claims the re-designed site will be faster, produce more relevant search results and improved search technology.

The site, which goes live in the US from 6 October and in the UK from 20 October, borrows design ideas from rival Google.

Cesar Mascaraque, European managing director of Ask, believes it is inevitable that there will be similarities with Google.

"All cars have four wheels. No-one wants a car with one wheel," he said.

He is convinced that Ask is chasing a very specific customer - 35 to 55-year-olds.

"The 20 year-old is never going to use us and, you know what, I don't care," he said.

Ask acknowledged that last year's TV campaign, which portrayed it as an underground alternative to Google, was not as successful as it hoped.

"The ad brought them in but the product let us down," said a spokeswoman."This time around we have done a lot of work on the back end."

Ask will be launching a scaled-down TV ad campaign, confined initially to the Midlands area.

It will focus on the tricky questions to which people want answers.

Lifeblood

Google's rivals have a marathon task if they want to cut into its market share, said Alex Burmaster, an analyst with market research firm Nielsen NetRatings.

"For anyone coming to the net in the last few years Google is the lifeblood of their online behaviour," he said.

"Despite changes to the technology and marketing the figures suggest that Ask hasn't made a difference," he said.

In the UK, Google dominates with an 80% market share compared to 2% for Ask.

In the US, Google's share is slightly less at 60% but Ask's share remains the same.

But searching on Ask remains relatively healthy. During August 46 million searches were conducted via Ask in the UK which accounts for one in five of all people using a search engine.

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