Ask.com: Innovation doesn't always pan out

Ask.com: Innovation doesn't always pan out

Summary: Ask.com in the last year or so had been a nice little Petri dish.

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Ask.com in the last year or so had been a nice little Petri dish. It launched AskCity, tinkered with its interface, created universal search results and became a credible alternative to Google. The problem: Ask.com couldn't grow its base of users.

ask.pngWith that backdrop, Interactive Corp. (IAC) is cutting 8 percent of Ask.com's workforce, or roughly 40 jobs, reports The Wall Street Journal (Techmeme). The layoffs come as Ask.com retreats to its roots--delivering search results based on questions. Ask.com will also target its core female audience.

Ask.com's retreat shows how hard it is to change habits. Aside from my life without Google experiment I rarely visited Ask.com. The site--and the search results it produced--was fine, but I'm a creature of habit and Google is in my Firefox toolbar. My behavior is one reason Google is the top dog in search. It's not lock-in as much as it is lazy-in (I'm too lazy to seriously switch).

In the end, the Ask.com retrenchment is a bit of a shame since the search provider did cook up some nice features. I also wonder if Ask.com gave its effort enough time. But if no one beyond the digerati used Ask.com what's the point. Ask.com's search share is flat with a year ago and hasn't broken 5 percent despite the big plans of Barry Diller's--CEO of IAC. In December 2006, Diller said he thought that word of mouth, slick features and a little advertising could get people to change their Google habits. Ask.com would be the glue of Diller's Web empire. Wrong. Very wrong.

In a nutshell, it's back to the drawing board for Ask.com. But it's unclear whether the search engine can deliver growth with its new strategy. Perhaps Ask.com could be sold to a rival looking to gain some market share like Microsoft. Ask.com would certainly come cheaper with fewer headaches than Yahoo.

Topics: Emerging Tech, Browser

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7 comments
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  • When they became a regular search like everybody else . . .

    When they became a regular search like everybody else, they pretty much lost their audience. There was no more reason to use them. Sorry, but they should've bought back the one innovation that made them different in the first place - getting answers to questions.

    Quite frankly, the original "Ask Jeeves" was great, but ever since its launch, it's been filled with poor decisions. Become a regular search engine, drop the mascot, etc. It's no different from anybody else now, and that has hurt it more than anything.
    CobraA1
  • RE: Ask.com: Innovation doesn't always pan out

    Well I use Google because I know it generates revenue for Mozilla/Firefox. If I use Ask does Mozilla get anything?

    Thanks,
    atmusky
  • RE: Ask.com: Innovation doesn't always pan out

    I use Google out of the online search engines because it makes browsers (Mozilla, Mozilla-Firefox, IE, Opera--in that order, if I'm patient enough, though the order of IE and Opera varies) crash less. If I'm serious about searching, I go first to Copernic (which is set up, thank you, to use Google) and second to (the zdnet thing I always have to look for, hang on) Web Ferret--because both seem utterly reliable. When I use Google at all it's out of laziness and I'm frankly not impressed other than by ease of use (and the author's writing).
    --Glenn
    oregonnerd13
    • RE: Ask.com: Innovation doesn't always pan out

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  • RE: Ask.com: Innovation doesn't always pan out

    I always use Ask.com first (via the Firefox excellent search engine list), both because it has always served me well and because it is not Google. There are fewer sponsored ads (good for me, bad for Ask).

    Google has become too pervasive and intrusive IMHO so I will do anything to use other tools, such as Yahoo! maps and Ask.com search.
    hnhmailbox-tr@...
  • RE: Ask.com: Innovation doesn't always pan out

    pervasive, but so what? It works well, and has alot of other good products, e.g. gmail..., andask seems to come bundled with obnocious crapware-ispr108.exe, seekapp. It did not let me opt out when I signed up for a certain newsletter/sure I can uninst. their toolbar, but it was another waste of my time. I don't like a bunch of toolbars cluttering my screen/box, but google's comes with useful opts.
    Nothing wrong with pulling for the underdog over the giant, but in google's case they seem to have earned their giant status. They too have much room to improve, but I don't see them becoming less responsive with size.
    burt&theband
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