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This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
A busy 24 hours at IAC (NSDQ: IACI) ... we wrote earlier about the pending soft launch of Tina Brown's The Daily Beast and now yet another update from search engine, going live now with the "next generation"of its question-based service. Goals include reducing searches to one click and providing direct answers on the results page in high-volume categories. The changes follow a shift in strategy announced last spring to focus less on the whiz-bang kind of services that might impress "the digerati" and more on practical results appealing, for instance, to a key Ask constituency of mid-western and southern women over 30.

Ask says it has improved site download speeds by 30 percent compared to the same time last year. It ranked a distant fourth in the *comScore* U.S. search engine rankings with 4.8 percent in August 2008 but showed improvement in core search rankings and was up 7 percent in the number of searches, compared with drops for *Yahoo* and *Microsoft*. Among the changes:

-- Ask "now ranks and integrates content from a broader and more comprehensive set of content types such as breaking news, blogs, images, videos, and music right into the center panel."
-- Ask goes deeper into its highest-volume categoriesEntertainment, Health & Nutrition, Jobs, and Referencefor direct responses. 
-- A new Q&A channel with direct answers to "everyday" questions. It draws on q&a content from across the web. There's also a new direct answers channel
-- Dropping nav icons for text to make loading the homepage faster.

By Staci D. Kramer