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Search Engine Showdown

Ask.com, formerly AskJeeves.com, has been touting itself lately in commercials as a better search than Google. The company, owned by IAC, points to its special algorithm, its “narrow search” categories, and its topic clusters. Since I do research and reporting for Fast Company, I decided to conduct an experiment. Last week, I changed my homepage at the office to Ask.com.

At first it was disconcerting to see the red logo pop up. However, many times I found what I was looking for, and those “narrow search” categories can be somewhat useful, even if there are too few of them. But I lost track of the times I had to default to the little Google toolbar in my browser for complex searches when Ask.com didn’t deliver. In those cases, Google got me closer to what I wanted. Sure, like the Ask.com ads say, there is a more civilized way of searching. Neither company has nailed it, though. The sheer page rank volume of Google–“Google bombs” and all–still outweighs Ask.com. Sadly, I ended up searching on Google for the Ask.com ads to find what I was looking for.

Now, if Google were to buy Ask.com and incorporate some of the technology into its search capabilities, that would be a promising experiment.

FCS