Posted January 8, 2009 7:15 pm by with 17 comments

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By Peter Young

Given the recent improvements announced by Google it should come as no surprise that another search engine has recently announced a raft of improvements to their search experience. This time it’s who have announced a number of advances to their semantic search technology.

With semantic search one of the key search battlegrounds over the next couple of years, Ask introduced a couple of new semantic technologies namely DADS(SM) (Direct Answers from Databases), DAFS(SM) (Direct Answers from Search), and AnswerFarm(SM) aimed at breaking new ground in the areas of semantic, web text and answer farm search back in October 2008.

According to Erik Collier, vice president of product management at Ask, the Ask technology is unique because it enables web surfers to type real questions, instead of a series of keywords. When interviewed by TechNewsWorld back in June 2008, he went on to say

To find out what football games are on the TV Sunday afternoon, users simply type in, for instance, “What NFL games are on TV this Sunday?”

That is where DADS comes in. The acronym stands for “Direct Answers from Databases.” The technology takes structured data feeds and converts them into information that tags.

“It’s different than a traditional syntactical text matching. We’re understanding what the subject is, so we have discrete subjects. We’re talking about TV listings, event listings that have a much smaller semantic breath than a general word search. We optimized that, and it is discrete. We are able to identify that as a TV query; translate the different piece[s] of your sentence into what they really mean.”

Initial trials of this have mainly centered around TV listings. Further to this have now expanded trials into NASCAR related information—chosen because of the significant buzz that is generated around the sport—particularly of structured data—something which is central to the new Ask technologies. Semantic Nascar results

Whilst integration of this technology is currently limited, it certainly shows a level of innovation sometimes lacking from some of Ask’s competitors. On a personal level I am not sure this is going to lift Ask above competitors such as Google, Yahoo and MSN in the short term, however it is certainly indicative of an ongoing commitment to search, which is often in doubt.

Peter Young is a UK search marketing Manager for MVi in Manchester as well as regular contributor to the Holistic Search blog.

  • Funny. For some reason I thought that the people behind Ask were going to bow out gracefully and get out of search. But I suppose they do offer something that many search engines do not. Although, I have noticed that sometimes Google does answer questions for some unique queries.

    I wonder what Ask’s market share is…

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  • Google has recently mentioned that they are doing some semantic stuffs too. But the funny thing is none of the source pages had any tags that would enable them to process the data.

    I am yet to see how is doing it. I’ll check it out later tonight.

    Saad Kamal’s last blog is Buying Paid Links

  • It appears that everyone is into semantics nowadays. Google is also looking into this lately…

  • Ask is a useful SE and I am glad that they are improving rather than throw in the towel. This is the advantage when the market leader keeps innovating.

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  • At least somebody else, apart from Google, has new stuff to talk about in the world of search technology…..the direct question comes much more naturally to people than keywords and keyword phrases.

  • It’s funny that they’re new features allow people to search using questions, when I always viewed that as the basic premise of Ask anyway.

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  • It’s great to see that Ask is still trying to compete with Google, but I don’t think they have much of a chance. In terms of technology, Cuil is probably the only search engine out there that can really compete with Google.

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  • Competition is encouraged in the world of technology in the name of mankind.

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  • Good for them but they have a lot of catching up to do to Hakia and everyone else.

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  • I like that.. “DADS” heh heh.. very cool..
    Finally the world can have a patriach to whom they really can go for all their answers

  • DADS and DAFS are great technologies indeed as it is more convenient to write direct questions than try to get the proper key words. Well done,!

  • Wii

    I don’t really know much about the technologies involved but anything that will help to put a little bit more competition in the market can only be a good thing

  • when they can catch up on other search engine? But I am happy that they are finally stepping up for the company to overpass other search.

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  • Interesting, I am going to check out Ask’s new technology, sounds like some neat ideas and creativity taking place over there

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