Ask Adds to Consensus: Social Is the Way to Compete With Google
IAC’s Ask.com is giving up the ghost on algorithmic search and Web crawling. Rather than continuing to wilt while competing directly with Google, Ask said today it will devote its resources to Q&A search. That will strike 130 engineering jobs in New Jersey and China, according to Bloomberg.
Ask has long been the fourth-place player in search, despite some innovative spurts like its origin as a natural-language search engine using the fictional butler Jeeves, and its early efforts to visually parse search results and media into snippets–now features of all major search engines.
IAC CEO Barry Diller, who has recently publicly disparaged Ask, told Bloomberg today, “We’ve realized in the last few years you can’t compete head on with Google.”
Ask launched a new Q&A approach in July, following a recent trend but also playing back to its roots. Sixty percent of questions on the service are now answered, up from 30 percent, Ask.com president Doug Leeds told SearchEngineLand today.
So, is Q&A and social search the way to compete with Google? It could be. Despite buying Aardvark and launching some minimal social search features, Google hasn’t done much in the area. There’s a lot of value in getting your network of friends to give recommendations, as many people do on Facebook and Twitter, and building communities to add knowledge to the Web rather than just crawl it, like on the small but promising Quora. These more recent innovations follow the surprising strength, in a Googlefied world, of products like Yahoo Answers and Korea’s Naver.
IAC hopping out of algorithmic search and crawling doesn’t change much in the market, but it does reaffirm Microsoft’s Bing as the other major player investing in search after Google. Elsewhere, I don’t even want to try to parse the Yahoo-Microsoft partnership. Facebook processes a ton of search queries already, despite a very basic offering, and also is working with Microsoft on search. And Twitter has seen serious growth in search–it says it gets a billion queries a day–but the company seems to count just about every time someone pings its service as a search.