I really liked the new version of Ask.com that arrived back in June of 2007–in part because it was so clearly not Google or a shameless Google wannabee. That version sported a three-pane interface that divvied results up into discrete sections for Web pages, news, images, video, and more. It was a strikingly different approach than Google’s Universal Search, which weaves results of all sorts into one list.
It would seem that consumers didn’t greet a radically different Ask.com as warmly as I did–Comscore data for August 2008 shows Ask with 4.5 percent of the search market, down from 5 percent in May 2007, right before that redesign. Fifteen months later, Ask has released another new version, and it’s dumped the divvied-results feature in favor of something that looks a lot more like Google, previous versions of Ask, and most every other search engine on the planet.