Ask.com and you won't receive
It may be all up to Bing now: Ask.com, the only other search engine to provide measurable competition to Google in the U.S., announced today that it would end its Web-search efforts.
The Oakland, Calif., firm broke the news to its remaining users in a blog post:
We know that receiving answers to questions is why Ask.com users come to the site, and we are now serving them in everything we do [....] 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. This investment in independent web search is not required by our strategy, nor is it required in the marketplace.
Instead, Ask.com will focus its efforts on connecting users asking questions to other people with those answers, an initiative it launched in July.
This change takes the site once known as Ask Jeeves back to the emphasis on question-and-answer exchanges that years ago made it a favorite of my former colleague Leslie Walker. It also ends an ambitious effort launched in 2005, when IAC bought the site for $1.85 billion in stock and tried to build it into a rival to Google. (IAC chief executive and chairman Barry Diller serves on The Washington Post Co.'s board of directors.)
But Ask.com couldn't make any headway in the market. ComScore's September figures gave Ask a mere 3.7 percent of the U.S. search market, compared to 66.1 percent for Google, 16.7 percent for Yahoo, 11.2 percent for Microsoft's Bing (and related sites) and 2.3 percent for AOL.
Subtract Ask from the Reston-based research firm's data and factor in Bing now providing Yahoo's search results and Google doing the same for AOL. That leaves a Google-dominated duopoly, with the occasional upstart--for instance, the crowd-curated Blekko search site that launched Oct. 31--scuttling around underfoot.
Microsoft has been doing some creative work with Bing, but do you trust those two companies to keep each other honest?
I suppose I should put that question to Ask.com now.
| November 9, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
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