As we (and others) hinted a couple weeks ago, Ask.com is re-launching as a cross between a traditional search engine and the question-and-answer service that it was back in the site’s heyday.
NOTE: SEE OUR FOLLOW-UP PIECE, Ask Comes Full Circle With “Q&A” Offering
The new Ask.com homepage represents a pretty dramatic change. Search is still front and center, but in order to focus on the Q&A aspect, Ask says all users will now see the “Question of the Day” feature; a section of “Popular Questions” is also featured prominently on the home page.
The look-and-feel changes are just the beginning, though. In a separate blog post, Ask has announced a public beta of a new site that brings a human question-and-answer community into the mix. Here’s Ask answering the “Why?” question before it’s asked:
Why the re-energized focus on Q&A? From a macro trend perspective, the explosion of the social Web underscores both the cultural shift and massive technical innovation of the last 15 years. Simply put: people are using the Web as a conversational medium, ergo, consumers are increasingly asking questions (evidenced by demonstrated interest in Q&A from Google, Facebook and an entire cadre of start-ups).
From a product perspective, the new Ask.com is designed to fill some major holes left by search engines through a blend of technology and the strongest asset we have – our users.
On the human/community side, Ask says it will be able to route questions to the right people based on “interests and expertise” — presumably as defined in user profiles. Community responses will also be made available to Ask’s search algorithm to answer questions posed via the search box.
Ask is taking requests for an invite to the beta site at www.ask.com/invite.
There’s more discussion on Techmeme.