Search Community Reaction to Ask.com New Search Strategy

Mar 5, 2008 • 7:45 am | comments (5) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Ask.com - Ask Jeeves
 

Barry Schwartz & Apostolos Gerasoulis of Ask.comYesterday afternoon I got word that IAC laid off 8% of the Ask.com workforce and I wrote a blog post named IAC Cuts 8% Of Ask.com & Kills Search Engine. Let me summarize what IAC told the press.

(1) They laid off 40 people, which was about 8% of Ask.com (2) They are refocusing the search engine on women over 30 (3) They will be fine tuning the engine to answer questions on health and entertainment matters

That is what I got from what the IAC PR team was feeding the media.

I am not blind, we the search community are not blind, to many of us this means they killed the search engine.

If you are going to cut 8% of a tiny workforce, how do you expect to compete against Google or Yahoo or Microsoft - you can't. If you are going to focus your engine in a niche of searchers who are women over 30 who search on health and entertainment, how are you going to compete in the search space as an innovator - you won't. If you are going to alienate "digerati" or "West Coast elite" how are you going to compete against Google - you can't and won't.

Ask.com is no longer an innovator that is what this IAC announcement tells me. Ask.com is not to blame, it is obviously IAC who decided that although they were committed to a long term strategy in competing as a serious player in the search space - 1.5 years is long term enough for them and they have raised the white flag and said they are out.

Diller pulls the the soul out of Ask.com by removing Lanzone, he then pulls the smarts out of Ask.com by removing Gary Price and then pulls the will out of Ask.com by cutting 8% of the team. Heck, I even spotted early signs of Ask using Google search results, which I believe to be true.

Want to read a touching and heart-wrenching blog post from an Ask.com evangelist who feels betrayed? Go over and read Lisa Barone's post and see how many of the search community feels.

I’m heartbroken over the loss of an engine I loved and intensely angry at Barry Diller, the man who never understood the gem he had in his hand, and in return, threw it away when it wasn’t making money as fast as he wanted it to. This was a decision based on money, not about users, not about search, not about anything other than Barry Diller’s bottom line.

Danny Sullivan's post Obit: A West Coast Digerati Deadpools Ask.com at Search Engine Land tells Ask.com "you're dead." Danny does an excellent job showing us the reason he is the industry leader by going back to history and showing why Ask.com is truly now dead. Danny ends with this:

I won't cry for you much, Ask. I know you're in a different place now. I know what makes sense to me and many others doesn't make sense for you. But I hope you'll understand when I and the many others you've dismissed as the "digerati" aren't counting you in the search game any longer. That's because we know in our hearts you're gone, even if you protest that it's not so.

Let's dig into the community reaction. We have threads at Sphinn, Cre8asite Forums and WebmasterWorld and here are some select quotes from those threads:

The little search engine that could -- no more.

Now that quote makes me so upset, since I was behind Ask.com since 2004. I called them, and I believe I was the first to call them this, The Little Search Engine That Could.

This is such a shocker, I really had hope for Ask. It seemed like they had such a good product, they just had to hang in there - but finances aren't that forgiving.

I was really hoping that Ask would be the David that would slay Goliath (or at least make dent in Goliath's armor).

There is more but I will spare you. Here is a roundup of blog posts and news stories on the topic:

I plan on updating this post as I find more stories that I can add. Feel free to comment below with additional stories and I will try to add it to the main article.

I just found a Flickr stream of photos from Ask.com employees and ex-employees bidding farewell. Here is a Flickr slideshow of the people who have touched all of our hearts and that we will all miss deeply (including you Patrick). Update, I just found out these pictures are from two weeks ago, bidding farewell to Michael Ferguson who left Ask.com after working there since 1995.

Overall, I am extremely disappointed to say the least. This is the end of Ask.com, in my opinion.

Forum discussion at Sphinn, Cre8asite Forums and WebmasterWorld.

Update: Added Danny's article above and also wanted to note that Barry Diller may be on his way out, too fitting.

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Comments:

jimhedger

03/05/2008 04:42 pm

http://www.metamend.com/blog/2008/03/04/askcom-is-dead/ Ever notice how Safka can be rhymed off Kafka? Anyone with the talent to work that riff should be put in charge of Ask.com/. Sadly, I keep getting caught in the literature while seeking the right reference and forget what it was I was going to write. (my first reaction are at the link mentioned above but I wish I could work the Kafka thing in somehow)

Meredith

03/06/2008 02:36 pm

Ask.com is displaying Google Ads. I just searched for a keyword that we have running on Google and it was verified through the tracking URL that they are now displaying Google ads.

Ex-Askicker

03/07/2008 02:14 am

Meredith, we (Ask) have always (ok, not always, but for a very long time) been using Google ads. Nothing new and no secret there. But ads are no search results. The results have always come from our own engine. Now, I guess I should stop saying "we" and "our" as I'm no part of it anymore. I was one of the 40 let go. Seeing all my colleagues in the slideshow above hurts as I know all of them and was friends with many. But perhaps it's a good time to move on. The new official role model at Ask is Marge Simpson. Safka used images, quotes, even video of her throughout the all-hands on Tue announcing the new direction. I don't think I would've been excited about that. And I'm certainly not alone. I'm in touch with friends who're still there. Despite Safka's wide-quoted claim "Everyone at Ask is excited about our clear focus and the trajectory-changing results it will deliver" the common vibe is "moral here sucks".

Chetan

12/30/2008 05:45 am

People always hate to talk about when they are laid off. But as it has become every day's news headline since Yahoo started it with cutting 1500 of its task force last year, now a need of platform has been in demand where people can express their selves in words how they are feeling about their company, whey the got laid off was that justified or not. And every thing they want to tell anonymously.And www.layoffgossip.com is providing you that platform.

No Name

03/18/2009 07:44 am

The new official role model at Ask is Marge Simpson. Safka used images, quotes, even video of her throughout the all-hands on Tue announcing the new direction.

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