Read/WriteWeb's Web 2.0 Summit coverage sponsored by Yahoo!
This session at Web 2.0 Summit reunites two old Ask.com execs, current Ask CEO Jim Lanzone and former and ex-CEO and now senior vice president of the Online Services Group at Microsoft Steve Berkowitz (whom I interviewed a couple of days ago).
60-70% of Ask's revenue historically comes from Google (the current figure isn't being revealed, but Jim said it's in that ballpark). That's from contextual ads on Ask.com, which come from Google.
Steve notes that Microsoft's challenge is to take the search experience the next step from Google. He says that Microsoft's challenge is to move search from products to experiences - "keep the users engaged".
John Battelle asks if Ask.com will begin to roll out more new features. Jim says that 6-7 months after the ask.com launch, they need to earn the respect of people - after the poor reputation for quality Jeeves used to have. He said they're not a portal, but a straight search engine - which is another reason for the ask.com brand. He's aiming to be the number 2 brand in search - he says the top results in Ask are editorial, which he thinks makes them higher quality.
John asks how are Microsoft and Ask are different in search. Steve says there isn't one size fits all for search - Microsoft is aiming to create a set of experiences, based on the Live set of products. Jim says that Ask.com enables users to do more, faster. He says Ask's search product "is the most differentiated in the industry" (more on that in a future post, as I talked to the Ask team afterwards).
Steve says there will be a lot of innovation in the UI, graphical search for example. Also he says the search experience depends on how a user enters the search - e.g. that may affect how search utilizes a user's community. But the main point is that both Steve and Jim emphasize that search will continue to evolve.
John asks: where is Google vulnerable? Jim says that there hasn't been much competition for Google, until now. He says Google's challenge is to grow "beyond search", which brings the risk that they won't innovate so much in search as they used to. Steve says that backwards compatibility will be Google's greatest challenge. He also mentions that Google expanding their footprint is a risk - as it's a big task and discipline to make sure the focus stays right. Also he says being a public company is a challenge.
Jim points out that the whole search industry will continue to grow - he says Ask is the 7th biggest web property in the US, ahead of Amazon for example.
Steve says that in search "the product is the marketing" - and he thinks Google is in a great position in that respect.
A question from the audience for Steve about live.com, what is his vision for it. Steve says his vision is for "search plus", that live.com will be the way to get to Microsoft's services. He says that search will be center to their product range.
See also: Microsoft's 3D Web: A Chat with Steve Berkowitz and Christopher Payne (an interview I did with Steve and his colleague Christopher Payne, a couple of days ago)