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Barry Diller, Matchmaker



First, TimeWarner said that they might be selling off at least “parts” of AOL. Just three days later, IAC recently underwent a serious schism, fragmenting their seemingly-piecemeal companies into five separate businesses. But hang on, kids, the changes aren’t over yet—AdAge reports that Barry Diller, still chief of IAC (which now comprises Ask.com, Match.com, Evite, Citysearch, and Excite), wants to buy AOL.

Says Diller:

We’ve talked over the years about our interest in AOL and never been able to get Time Warner to engage with us. I’ve always said AOL is great opportunity for somebody. When and if Warner doesn’t want it, I’ll certainly be at the door.

On its face, the deal looks like a trainwreck waiting to happen: they’re both on the rebound, just getting out of long term relationships. Oh, and neither of them has a past that’s exactly “rosy,” to put it lightly.

But could it work? Only Time(Warner) will tell. </clichés>

Perhaps more interesting in AdAge’s interview is Diller’s assessment of Ask.com, which will make up a large part of the new IAC’s income:

We feel great. We’ve been able to grow queries second only to Google. We’ve increased retention, frequency. All the metrics for Ask are very good. Now we have a new five-year arrangement with Google on the sponsored listings that’s going to be very, very remunerative to us. Ask is going to be able to continue to innovate. To me, anyone who uses Ask — well, I can’t say anyone, but I think enough people have said other than us that we’ve got a very good search-differentiated product from Google, Yahoo or Microsoft, which has all sorts of value-added ways to search that people like.

I’m very, very happy that we now are certain of a very large amount of revenue coming in every year which will allow us to build the service, build the product. The only way anyone’s going to succeed is to build the product. There’s legacy here, meaning the legacy of Google and how hard it is for people to change habits, but one by one, eventually, they do. Since Ask is cooler than anybody else, it’s starting to get viral growth, which is what you pray for.

Okay, I’ll admit it. Ask is cooler than everybody else. But are bells and whistles enough to topple Google?

  • http://www.advicenetwork.com/contest Advice Network

    Wow, one company owning excite, and ask, and evite, AOL, and city search. I say go for it. It will make it easier to know who to put against the wall first come the revolution. (Douglas Adams reference, in case you missed it.)

  • Bob

    Who said Ask has to topple Google to grow like a weed? It can probably exist in the same garden and do really well. At some point people are going to want more than one search site. They will want an alternative. Looks like it may be Ask if they keep innovating the way they have.

  • Jordan McCollum

    Although Diller has traditionally said that they’re not competing with Google, he said right there that they’re trying to get people to change from Google. If destroying Google’s user base one by one isn’t at least an individual-based effort to topple Google, I don’t know what is.

    And, as you said, if people are looking for an alternative to Google, and they go to Ask, isn’t that Ask’s ultimate goal?