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Monday, 4th December 2006

AskCity From Ask.com: Fast Facts About the New Service

AskCity From Ask.com Goes Live: Fast Facts and Tips About the New Service

The best way to get to know the service, any search service for that matter, is to run some searches. That said, what follows is a brief but hopefully fact-filled guide to a few of the many features that the new AskCity service offers.

Note From Gary: Since I'm at Ask.com now, I'll refrain from sharing opinion (see the links below if that's what you would like to read).

For More See: Search Engine Land, TechCrunch, USA Today, NY Times, Clickz, and News.com.

Organization, Data, and Search
+ AskCity combines local business listings (from bakeries to plumbers, and MANY more categories), event listings (from art museum openings to basketball games), movie show times, and maps & directions into a single search service. At this point, AskCity is U.S. only but look for expansion in the coming year. NOTE: At the present time, Ask Maps are available for some international locations. For example, Berlin, Germany; Montreal, Canada; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Barcelona, Spain.

+ AskCity content appears in a three window format.
Window 1: Search and Refine
Window 2: Results, Tool
Window 3: Maps, Directions

Using AJAX-based technologies, refinements and additions to pages in all three windows appear without needing to reload the entire page. Of course, it's also easy to enlarge or reduce the size of any column.

+ Listings often contain reviews and comments (from various web services not just other IAC properties) and publications. For example, film reviews from the Chicago Tribune or restaurant reviews from CitySearch. Other sources of user reviews come from targeted crawling of the open web and include Yelp! and Wcities. Use reviews for service types of businesses (let's say a painter or plumber) are provided by ServiceMagic.

+ Movie info pages often contain direct links to trailers and a film's official website along with reviews.

+ When searching for movies or events, results can often be refined by genre. Here are just a few examples:
Movies
+ Musicals
+ Comedies
+ Dramas
+ Adventure

Events
+ Art and Museums
+ Festivals
+ Theater

Btw, when searching for movies, you can search using an actor's or director's name and find results.

Restaurants and many other categories list refinements and/or suggestions.

+ In many cases, you can search or refine a search by neighborhood or Zip Code. When available, refinements are found in the first window below the search boxes. After selecting a neighborhood or searching using a Zip Code, the user will see these areas (neighborhoods and Zip Codes) outlined on the map. You can also search by street. For example, you could search for all of the places for coffee on a specific street in a specific city, neighborhood, Zip Code.

+ If a user searches by city name and fails to include a state and that city name is used in multiple states, you'll find a drop-down box (top of listings, middle window) where the user can select the specific location they are searching for. This drop-down box can also helping the user narrow to a specific portion of a street. For example, if you enter Michigan Avenue in Chicago, you'll see a drop-down box asking if you're looking for N. Michigan Avenue or S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago? Use of this box is optional.

+ Event listings can be sorted by venue (look for the link at the top of the results listings). This allows you to see three upcoming events at a specific location. Then, another quick click and you can review all events at that venue.

Interacting and Sharing
+ Basic directory info (name, telephone number, address) can be sent to your mobile (or any mobile # in the U.S.) via SMS (text message) or email.

+ For many listings, AskCity allows users to make restaurant reservations (via OpenTable), purchase movie tickets (via Fandango) and event tickets (via TicketWeb, Ticketmaster, StubHub, etc.) One service even allows you to make camping reservations.

+ As you find businesses, events, restaurants, etc., of interest with AskCity, these locations can be saved (what AskCity calls "pinned"). Look for a "Pin it" link with each entry. Note how the numbered results automatically change to letters after you click the “pin it” link. Once an itinerary (let's say, a day's worth of errands) is compiled, a user can click ONCE and find directions (both driving and walking directions) from one location to the next.

Maps
+ AskCity also includes most of Ask Maps features including the option to right click on ANY spot on a map and have that spot marked on the map without having to manually enter the location.
+ Each location marked on a map can be clicked on. This brings up a map "bubble" that also gives you the opportunity to:
+ Pin It (save it to a list)
+ Directions
+ Email the location address
+ Zoom to Street
+ Search Nearby. This option takes the address of the selected location and copies it directly into the location box.

+ Maps can be saved by taking what Ask.com calls "snapshots" of them. These maps and the aerial imagery that's also available can be annotated and "marked up" with text and other graphical elements (circles, lines, etc).

+ These maps containing your saved or "pinned" locations can be emailed to yourself and others, if you're registered as a MyStuff* user. My Stuff is Ask.com's sharing and storage service. If you use MyStuff, maps can be accessed from any computer. Excellent news for travelers who might want to compile listings for upcoming trips before they leave home. *Did you know MyStuff allows you to save and share images sent directly from your mobile phone?

+ Remember, both driving and walking directions are available from AskCity and Ask Maps. Walking directions are a very popular feature of Ask Maps.

+ Users will also be able to "jump" into the AskCity service via various Ask.com SmartAnswers found at the top of Ask.com web search results pages. This is important since for many web users it's all about that one web search box. AskCity will also be linked in the Ask.com home page Search Toolbox.

Here are three examples of web search Smart Answers using AskCity data. Look for the Smart Answers at the top of the page.

++ Rock Concerts, New York City
Note the disambiguation box that will limit to a specific of the city.
++ Basketball, Los Angeles
++ Italian Food, Evanston, IL

Conclusions
+ Results are ranked dynamically using a variety of criteria including text relevance (what you enter) and distance. Don't forget that if you search with a specific address or Zip Code, this plays more of a role in determining relevance than if just searching by a city name.

+ AskCity data comes from numerous content partners, many not part of the IAC/InterActive family.

+ Don’t forget, like many other web databases and search engines, the AskCity database is a dynamic, growing entity. New and updated material will be added all of the time. The same for new features. So, be on the lookout.

See Also: Another Example Integration of IAC on Ask.com
This Ask.com "Smart Answer" feature has been online for over a year and is not only useful but also a real time saver. Think metasearch of wedding registries via Gifts.com. Names from six national (U.S.) wedding gift registries in a single location. Simply search "wedding registry" and fill in the boxes OR wedding registries and the bride's name and then click go.


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