Yesterday 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.
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:
- All Things Must Pass; Moving On from Ask.com, Gary Price
- IAC's Ask.com to Cut 8% of Staff, Wall Street Journal
- IAC Cuts 8% Of Ask.com & Kills Search Engine, Search Engine Land
- Ask.com Cuts 40 Jobs, Gary Price Among Those Laid Off, Search Engine Journal
- Goodbye Ask.com: A Brand Evangelist Hangs It Up, BruceClay Blog
- Ask Laying off Workers, Search?, Marketing Pilgrim
- IAC Retooling Ask, Cutting 40, Silicon Valley Insider
- Ask.com Follows Jeeves Into Exile, WebProNews
- Ask.com search site to cut jobs, realign strategy, Reuters
- Ask.com to Cut 8%, Revamp Search Plans, Search Engine Watch
- Ask.com’s Safka: 40 Jobs Cuts; ‘Reevaluating’ Product; Ditching The ‘Digerati’, paidContent.org
- Ask.com: Innovation doesn’t always pan out, Between the Lines
- Ask.com Does About Face, Concentrates On Women, Profy
- Ask.com scales back in makeover, AP
- Ask.com to Become Women’s Site, Google Blogoscoped
- Ask Abandons General Search Engine Strategy, ResearchBuzz
- Ask.com to focus on narrower market, BigMouthMedia
- Apparently ASK Doesn't Always Have the Right Answer, StepForth
- RIP Ask.com?, Greg Sterling
- Ask.com is Dead, Metamend
- Obit: A West Coast Digerati Deadpools Ask.com, Search Engine Land
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.
Update: Added Danny's article above and also wanted to note that Barry Diller may be on his way out, too fitting.