While we are not quite sure as to when the portal went live since we weren’t able to find any official announcement from the company and IAC, which currently owns Ask.com, hasn’t listed Ask India on its website yet, we have noticed that the site has started advertising the new portal aggressively on YouTube through sidebar banners and post-roll video ads for the past few days.
We also noticed that the portal seems to have gone live in December 2010, but the site appears to have started populating content more recently.
Features: Unlike Ask.com, the India site looks and functions like a search engine, featuring a minimalist homepage with a large search box where users can type in their query to get relevant search results. Whats interesting though is that the site focusses on offering discussions threads denoted by a discussion bubble at the top, followed the regular search results. These discussion might be from its own Ask Answers portal or from other discussion forums like Answers.com, or Chacha.com. So for instance, if you type in Facebook, it will say that Facebook is a social networking website and link out to the discussion thread followed by the search results of Facebook.
However, why it fails is also because of the same discussion approach. For instance if I type in ‘200 USD in INR’ in a bid to do currency conversion, it suggests less relevant discussions threads like ‘How many INR in one USD?’ or ‘How much is 1.4million USD in INR?’ and provides short excerpts of those, which will probably be useless.
Besides this, the site also offers relevant search terms, and popular discussion threads around the search query, sourced from its Ask Answers portal in the sidebar.
Interestingly, the site also seems to offer search across various categories like images, news, videos (powered by Blinx), maps (powered by Navteq) along with its Q&A portal however there is no links to these properties either from the search box or from the search results. Also, it seems to have an Encyclopedia offering which is essentially Wikipedia articles sourced by the company, but they haven’t sourced all Wikipedia articles onto their portal.
Launched in 1996, Ask.com was initially known as Ask Jeeves and specialized in natural language search. The company was funded by investors like Highland Capital Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, and The RODA Group and had acquired companies like Teoma and Trustic Inc which operated the Bloglines feed service in October 2001 and February 2005 respectively. Ask Jeeves was however acquired by InterActiveCorp (IAC) in March 2005 for $1.85 billion and was rebranded as Ask.com in February 2006. In 2008, Ask.com acquired Lexico, owner of Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com, and Reference.com in an all-cash transaction and launched Ask Kids, a kid-focussed search engine.
In July 2010, the company revamped its site to focus on its Question and Answer (Q&A) offerings launching a closed beta Q&A service and a few months later, in November 2010, the company shut down its search operations laying off 130 engineers and outsourcing its search technology to an undisclosed company, focussing only on its Question and Answers offerings. Ask.com had later extended its Q&A service to iOS and Android, allowing users to ask questions on the go and had opened its Q&A service to the public in September 2011.
The company also offered dedicated sites in France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, and UK and had 263.1 million unique monthly users globally as of March 2012. Any office in India? Let us know if you know.