Ask.com, which has tried with scant success to morph itself into a search engine on par with those of Google and Microsoft, is unveiling a new version of its web site that delivers questions to answers, rather than traditional search results, reports the New York Times. The site, introduced in a limited test version on July 27, is a throwback to the company’s origins, when its mascot was a dapper butler who fetched answers to questions posed by users. A few years ago, the company phased out Jeeves on its site in the United States (he later had a revival in Britain) and began to emphasize more traditional search functions based around key words and phrases. “But people never stopped coming to us with their questions,” said Doug Leeds, the president of the company. “We started out that way, and that’s what people remember.” To build out its new Q&A engine, the company says it spent the last year refining algorithms and trawling web sites like Yahoo Answers and ChaCha to index more than 500 million questions and answers. If a question isn’t in the database, users can pose it to the Ask.com community, which Leeds says numbers close to 90 million monthly users. “There are still some things that Google doesn’t do very well,” he said. “They are just trying to get you in the neighborhood of an answer. We want to deliver that answer.”

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