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Ask Enters Third Dimension

Killing off the butler didn't help, so today Ask.com introduced a new version of its search engine in hopes of boosting its lagging market share.

The IAC company is calling the redesigned search engine Ask3D. With new search technology and a three-panel design, it's supposed to give searchers what they need, faster, according to Ask CEO Jim Lazone.

"Search engines have forced people to wade through endless lists of links, and refine query after query, to find the right information," Lazone said in a statement. "Ask3D reduces the amount of hunting and pecking it takes for people to find what they need. We do this by delivering the right information, from the deepest range of content, all on one clean and simple page."

The Ask3D redesigned results page is divided into three panels.

The query panel on the left-hand side features a search box with an auto-complete function. The results panel down the middle allows site previews and information, such as the number of pop-ups on a given site, whether a site is Flash-based, and the amount of time it will take a site to load on a 56K connection.

And the content panel, which runs down the right-hand side, displays a variety of content, including images, news items, blogs, weather, time, videos and music clips.

Ask code-named the new algorithmic content-matching and ranking technology bringing it all together "Morph."

Users familiar with AskX, a beta version of the search engine that debuted earlier this year, will find Ask3D familiar. In fact, so will users of test search engines from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

But don't expect those companies -- especially Google -- to mess with their search engines anytime soon, Gartner Research analyst Andrew Frank told internetnews.com. That's because there's little incentive to fix what isn't broken.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, not much is broken for Google, which lead all search engines with 55.2 percent share of all searches in April 2007.

Ask.com is another story. Despite aggressive marketing and the unceremonious departure of Jeeves last year, Ask.com's share of searches dropped 2.3 percent in April from the year-ago period. The search engine owns just 1.8 percent of the market.

Frank said the good news out of those bad numbers is that Ask is free to try out innovations like Ask3D because it doesn't have much to lose.

Though he said it's too early to tell if they'll have any impact, Frank characterized Ask3D's features as "innovative." He said he was glad to see Ask attempt to differentiate itself from Google with its flashy interface.

Another thing Ask3D has going for it, said Frank: "At least they aren't trying to out-Google Google."

Ask.com also has a new customizable homepage, the company said. This summer, users will be able to upload their own images to customize their backgrounds.



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