I guess Ask is tired of getting their ask kicked and so decided to setup something that will possibly compete better with the other SEs chasing Google.
They have launched Ask X and it looks slightly different from the other SEs.
I searched for “north carolina web design” (we show up as #5 out of almost 4 million results – woo hoo) and it looks like the results are broken into 3 columns, which is a little different from the other SEs results pages.
The far right column will probably show paid advertising eventually or maybe links to related information (not sure). The far left column shows other potentially related search terms (although searching for “north carolina web design” is apparently related to “pooch” – not sure how that works but, whatever).
Then, there are the Ask binoculars that will show you a snapshot of the site before you actually visit. That way you can see if it is close to what you are looking for.
Lastly, when you hover over the link, at the right hand side of the results section you will see a little icon that allows you to add to “MyStuff”. This is kind of Ask’s favorites and allows you to bookmark sites as you go. A little handy when you are researching things and don’t want to keep adding to Windows favorites.
Overall, Ask X shows promise and maybe they will climb a little higher in the Search Engine ratings war.
SEO people know that you stand little to gain by ranking highly in Ask since they are not used a huge amount. However, when I am out near a public Internet location (library, coffee shop, etc.) I make it a point to try and see what Search Engine people are using. Oddly enough, I have noticed more people using Ask.com and that really surprised me. I have not gotten up the nerve to ask the user why they chose Ask, but if the trend continues I will have to come up with a “Hi. I am doing research on Search Engines and wondered if I could ask you some questions” line. Maybe next year.