Ask.com is cleaning up its act a bit with the latest (the 11th, I'm told) major update of the search engine, which launches on Monday.
The biggest change is that Ask is parsing more data from various sources and displaying that in its search results. If you ask Ask a question, the algorithms will try to give you an answer in the result pages, not just a link to a relevant Web site. Ask.com president Scott Garrell confirmed that, yes indeed, this is the premise that Ask was founded on in 1996 when it was Ask Jeeves, but back then the answers were hand-crafted. Today they're created by the engine.
The company is also mining the Web for "Q&A pairs," and displaying answers from any site where people ask questions and others answer them. The site will also display questions related to the one the user asks, as well as the answers to their question, to help them do further research on a topic.
The service is also displaying more structured data in its results, such as TV listings and events.
Garrell claims that Ask 11 is 30 percent faster than Ask 10 as well as more accurate in its results. It's also a bit more cleanly organized, but you'd have to put the old and new version side-by-side to see the difference.
Parsing search results instead of just displaying them in a list is, of course, not unique to this engine, but I do like the focus on displaying answers instead of just links.