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Free Advertising scales back search, focuses on answers

Nov 15, 2010
Long-standing web portal, originally designed for answering plain-language questions for the internet populace, will return to focusing on its old intents after an announcement yesterday confirmed it's now out of the search business.

Doug Leeds, president of the United States arm of the company, confirmed the move in an official blog posting for the company, explaining that Ask has been pouring its resources into the search market for the past few years, and seeing very few successes.

He said the company had been criticised for losing focus in its operations in recent years, and current management have been realigning the company's priorities.

"Unfortunately, this absolute focus means that we need to stop investing in things outside of providing users with the best answers, including making the huge capital investment required to support algorithmic web search development," he said.

"This investment in independent web search is not required by our strategy, nor is it required in the marketplace."

The search community is sure to see the move as a bow to Bing and Google, whose market domination ensured Ask hasn't enjoyed a relevant share of the search pie in a long time.

Speaking to the BBC, Ovum senior analyst Mike Davis suggested Bing may actually come to power search functions for Ask, replacing the in-house team.

"Microsoft is making some very good deals at the moment, licensing Bing to other people," he said. "It has invested a fortune in search and wants to start knocking at Google's 65 per cent market share."

In the coming months, Leeds said, Ask will cease operations in Edison, New Jersey, and Hangzhou, China, shedding a reported 130 jobs in total.

Leeds' statements make the company sound optimistic for its future in the web sector, describing the question-and-answer service area pioneered by the company as "hyper-competitve."


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