Search Engine Showdown: Google vs Ask

In this, the 3rd installment of The (Not So) Great Search Engine Showdown, I reflect on my experience using Ask.com compared to Google.

I don’t have a great deal of time so this post is going to be brief. I really only have one _serious_ gripe about Ask – that stupid fu#@$%g Answerbar at the top of the page everytime you navigate to a search result. NO, ask.com! I wanted you to give me the search result, not a pain in the ass waste of screen real estate. What also frustrated me about this “feature” was it’s sheer unpredictability. Most web results would display the Anusbar at the top, but others (like Wikipedia) would be displayed in full glory without being crippled.
The “Close Permanently” button was never hit with such gusto, i’m sure. To demonstrate just how much, i’ve prepared the following illustration:

How to close the Ask.com Answerbar

How to close the Ask.com Answerbar

By way of quality of results, I actually found Ask to be better than I was expecting. Certainly I felt like I wasn’t missing Google, though on a few occassions I had to drop back just to be sure I wasn’t missing anything (turns out I wasn’t). Overall the web search results were as good as Yahoo’s, though one thing that irritated was that Ask.com mixes the paid advertising results in with the organic search results. I’m sure they’ll claim that they’re putting the top-most organic result first and then allowing the rest of the results to be shown underneath the paid section, but we all know the truth. Money grubbers.

When it was originally launched as “Ask Jeeves”, the website’s search technology was based on doing some NLP against your search query and it would try to return the best results based on the context of your question. A few years ago Jeeve’s was given the arse from his job, and the company took the arse to their search results, because (quite simply) their NLP wasn’t advanced enough to provide accurate results compared to Big Brother

However having played with with Ask.com this week, I noticed they still have a Q&A section (it claims is in Beta) which allows you to phrase a question and let the NLP try and answer it for you. Not one to turn down a good opportunity to test NLP products (and get a comparative feeling for the upcoming Wolfram Alpha test i’ll hopefully be performing), I Ask’ed the following question in the name of science:

Putting Ask.com's NLP to the Public Service Announcement test.

Putting Ask.com's NLP to the Public Service Announcement test.

It’s heart-warming to see that even if you speak broken English like the second guy, you can still get valuable advice on the interwebs.

This week, I throw away all credibility as I try out AOL’s search. If using this website results in me getting another fking AOL starter CD, i’ll sht the roof.

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