Q&A sites have been a hot topic of conversation over the past few weeks.

In particular, start-up ‘social Q&A site’, Quora, which has been generating a lot of buzz online and dominating headlines of tech blogs.

Quora may be flavour of the month in digital town but it’s not without competition – enter, Ask.com.

Back in November 2010, Ask.com officially announced that it would no longer be operating as a search engine. The company laid off 130 of its search engineers and those that were left have been focusing on the Ask.com Q&A product.

Now, Ask.com is preparing to launch its new product that aims to bring personalisation and Q&A to web search.

Ask.com differs from sites like Quora, by directing users’ questions to industry experts as apposed to leaving the answers up to the whole community.

Ask.com will identify users’ interests, in part, through their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles and based on that information, route questions to someone whose profile shows experience or knowledge in areas related to user-generated questions.

ask q and a

Image via Mashable

Jason Rupp, Director of product management at Ask.com, commented;

“Users give a few pieces of information. We’ll ask if you want to input your details from Facebook or LinkedIn, and we grab certain pieces of your profile information to build a profile for you so we’ll know what questions we think you can answer,”

This personalised information will also help the site identify users with similar interests, and allow users to follow other users that they can relate to.

Rupp continued;

“We can start to make associations between your topics and theirs. We can see what types of things match up and build you a better content [experience],”

Social search and user-generated answers produced via a search engine might prove to be a successful area for the site and a new way to provide users more answers to their queries.

As Valerie Combs, Ask.com’s VP of communications says;

“Social search is a relatively a new direction for us. It’s all part of a goal to create a peer-to-peer experience, tap into social and interest graphs to filter responses, and … search to find if an answer’s out there.”

To try the beta version of Ask.com complete with all the new features, visit www.ask.com/invite, or alternatively download Ask.com’s iPhone app via the App Store.