IAC bows to Google, kills search at Ask.com

A search pioneer but an afterthought for years, Ask.com no longer plans to work on its own search technology and will focus on its Q&A site.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
2 min read
Ask has been fighting for search market share for a long time, but Google has just been too strong.
Ask has been fighting for search market share for a long time, but Google has just been too strong. Screenshot by Tom Krazit/CNET

Add another name to the list of technology departments destroyed by Google.

IAC, the parent company of storied search engine Ask.com, has decided to cut 130 engineering jobs and halt all work on developing an algorithmic search competitor to Google, according to a report from Bloomberg. Ask.com will still operate as a questions-and-answers site, but plans to use search technology from another company--not named in the report--to power search on its site.

An Ask.com representative confirmed the news and issued a statement.

"Today's move is a reflection of our shift in strategy to focus on delivering the best Q&A service on the Web and in developing technologies that provide answers to the millions of questions asked by our users every day," the company said. "Ask has been very vocal that this is our heritage and it's why our users come to us time and time again."

Also, in a blog post to employees, the company said it would be closing offices in New Jersey and China.

"As our loyal staff knows best, Ask has taken a lot of flak through the years, fairly and unfairly, for not having a focused, cohesive strategy, for ping-ponging across different approaches and marketing tactics," Ask.com president Doug Leeds said in the post. "The current team ended that. 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."

It's been nearly suicidal to challenge Google in search since around 2004, when it took over the search market share lead. It now has around 65 percent of the market. Nonetheless, Barry Diller, CEO of IAC, agreed to buy the former Ask Jeeves in 2005 for $1.85 billion with hopes of gaining a piece of the lucrative search ads market.

Leeds conceded in an interview with Bloomberg that Google had just proven too difficult a competitor. According to ComScore, Ask.com had just 3.7 percent of the search market in September, just barely ahead of AOL, which uses Google to power its search results.

But Ask.com was one of the few companies that was still attempting to find its own way to crawl and index the Web. Yahoo has given up its efforts, outsourcing its back-end search functions to Microsoft's Bing and attempting to redefine itself as a user-interface search company.