John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

The Algorithm Needs More Market Share

askneedsanewadcampaign.jpg

Like its “algorithm” ad campaign, Ask.com’s redesign is certainly getting its fair share of attention, but will it gain the company some market share as well? Because as the inveterate fifth-place contestant in what’s rapidly becoming Google’s one-player market, Ask could certainly use it.

Dubbed “Ask 3D,” the company’s redesign seems at once an answer to Google’s new Universal Search system and a step beyond the search sovereign’s spartan user interface. It boasts a number of impressive new features and an elegant look and feel with which the company hopes to differentiate itself. “There are a lot more types of content online than there were a few years ago,” Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone told the New York Times. “But the search experience still looks like it did in 1996.”

No kidding. But try telling that to Google sometime.

Anyway … while it might appeal to some, Ask.com’s improved interface isn’t likely to make much of a difference in the brutish battle for search-engine market share. There isn’t much sustainable competitive advantage in new interfaces–they’re too easily copied by rivals. But then Ask doesn’t need much, does it? The search business is enormously profitable. As Microsoft’s Don Dodge recently noted, every market-share point in search is worth a billion dollars or more. So if Ask 3D ends up lifting the company’s share of all searches even slightly, it’s a success.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work