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Ask a search engine, get a person

When a website wants to gain a competitive edge, more technology is a common solution. But not for Ask.com; the sixth most popular search engine, which draws 90 million unique visitors a month, is attempting to set itself apart from its competitors by offering its users something other search engines don't: Starting Tuesday, a live person will perform the search normally done by an algorithm.

Through the new "Ask the Community" tool, questions posted by users will go to a diverse group of "experts" across a wide variety of fields. Within 10 minutes, the experts will deliver a response via e-mail, followed by a subsequent post of the answer online to appease later visitors with the same questions.

Ask.com will be putting a few hundred experts to work on the endeavor in hopes of steering the venture towards smart volunteers who would handle the queries. First question: Aside from the fact that its first home is the Web, how is this any different from ChaCha?

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