Ask.com to ask users to help answer queries

Internet search engine Ask.com is planning to go beyond algorithms and ask real human beings to help answer questions.

Ask, which is seeking to expand its less than four percent share of the Web search market in the United States, launched an invitation-only beta, or test, version of the new service on Tuesday.

In a blog post, Ask, previously known as Ask Jeeves, said questions submitted to the search engine can be routed to other Ask users to answer "based on interests and expertise."

Ask said it expects the new human element will prove useful with "those complex, subjective and/or time-sensitive queries that, no matter how advanced, computers simply can't address."

"From a product perspective, the new Ask.com is designed to fill some major holes left by search engines through a blend of technology and the strongest asset we have - our users," Ask said.

Google commands more than 60 percent of the US search market followed by Yahoo!, Microsoft's Bing, Ask and AOL.

Google earlier this year bought Aardvark, a "social search" service that relies on a user's social network contacts to provide answers to questions.

Another startup, Quora.com, provides a similar service with answers to questions provided by other users.

Ask is owned by Internet company IAC, whose 50 other brands include Match.com and The Daily Beast news and blog site.

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