Posted October 6, 2008 9:10 am by with 17 comments

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ask logoWell, it must be that time of year. You know when the leaves change colors and Ask changes their design? At some point they have to settle on something. They are actually starting to act like your “different” cousin who shows up at family functions with a new body piercing and a bad attitude just for shock value. You pay attention for a minute then you realize that it’s actually really sad that she doesn’t get it. is starting to feel that way in the realm of search engines. Once full of promise and ready to take on the big boys of search (which is now just one big boy and Ask partners with them anyway; dare to guess who?) they are now becoming a bit of a search sideshow. In today’s WSJ we learn that a new and improved is on the horizon (see screenshot). There are two points that are interesting here. First is Barry Diller’s spin on this redesign:

“To call it an all-new Ask is wrong; it’s an evolution of Ask. I think it’s going to help us primarily in retention and frequency. That is really the goal.”

Ok, this begs to “Ask”; retention and frequency of what? I don’t use the engine personally and know few who do. Secondly, Ask is now the largest of five pieces of IAC / Interactive Corp. broke their offerings into in August. Purchased for $2 billion in 2005, that’s a lot of dollars to recoup. When the big overhaul of Ask to Ask3D (I didn’t even know it had a “code name” until this article) the company spent $100 million on advertising. That’s some serious weight behind and an effort. Problem is it netted them virtually nothing. It feels like they can’t get beyond being just a footnote in the search industry. To that end they plan to spend a whopping $5 million to introduce the latest “evolution” and test consumer response.

As Johnny Cash sang “I hear the train a comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend” and with Ask this will most likely become a train wreck. The executives that were interviewed were pointing to small gains in market share (i.e. corporate speak for we are NOT irrelevant). Lastly, it is still a financial success due to its relationship with another search engine that provides their ads. You guessed it: Google. With the Yahoo! deal (which is on hold) and this arrangement with Ask, Google is starting to look more and more like the ridiculously wealthy relative who feeds money and opportunity to the less fortunate in the family just because they have a heart. I don’t suspect that Ask will ever be a real player in search. Just ask anyone you know if they use it. That’s evidence enough.

  • It’s a good move from Ask. Most of the SE’s does not include answers result (Yahoo, wiki answers etc) in it’s search results. But my concern here is about the accuracy of results being given to the users. Also why Ask does not include forums, article websites in it’s search results. Bcoz most of the queries will be asked in those websites apart from answers websites.

  • As Diller’s pointed out, gaining market share as the third player means huge end-over profitability.

    My complaint with Ask is that they crawl my sites like mad, yet always have an index lag of several months. Every time I create an htaccess file and robots.txt, I simply deinclude them. With a platform and crawl rate change, I think they’d improve their relevance because more site owners would actually allow them to see their content.

  • Wait. People still use Ask? I’d like to see some names. All five of them.

  • I don’t really use Ask because Google is more up to date and indexes websites quicker. You can find everything you want in Google. Searches don’t necessarily need to be in question format.

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  • I never understood why they phased out the “Jeeves” part years ago. It might have been a little gimmicky but it was memorable and the brand really set them apart from what other search engines were doing.

    A boring logo doesn’t have the same effect the giant butler balloon did in their Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade promotion, would it?

  • indeed. it did seem to have some promise all those years ago, and i did try using it for a time. now, it’s just fading into search obscurity for me.

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  • They just aren’t giving up are they?

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  • PS3

    Frank, you really don’t sound like a fan of Ask!

    When it first came out with it’s lovely, British “Ask Jeeves” branding I took an initial liking to it (being from the UK) but after using it for a while, it just didn’t cut the mustard.

  • Its good to see they are trying to improve their site, lots of sites lately are updating their design, I guess its so they can stay fresh in the competition

  • To be honest, I hadn’t heard of “ASK” before. They’re only surviving because they’ve been backed by Google, but how many people really ise them for search? Not much!

  • very less people use the Bcoz it doesn’t have large database like

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  • It looks like that Ask is not on race.. We will find more answers in other Search Engine.
    Corrupt Disk??

  • Ask? Who??

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  • Cap, you say you are concerned about the accuracy, but does Google give accurate results? There are people spending a lot of money on getting their website to the top of the lot but it doesn’t mean that their website is the best or has truthful information. Look at what’s happened inthe past. George Bush came first for failure and if you typed in French war victories it gave you “Did you mean French defeats”.

    Google can’t guarantee accuracy any more than any other search engine as the results are as good as the website coders.


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  • I used it exclusively in the beginning. Now I need to be reminded it’s there.

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  • So who actually uses Ask? The comparison with the cousin that “doesn’t get it” is hilarious!

  • What a nice name. Ask? How much for the domain?