The news marks the end of an era. IAC's Barry Diller told Bloomberg that it was a concession to the incredible search power of Google and company execs say they intend on shifting the product to the social Q&A it unveiled this Summer. That's another field that's already crowded with competitors. The passage of Ask as search marks the end of a number of interesting experiments.
Ask was acquired by IAC for $1.8 billion in 2005 but according to the most recent report totalled $227 million in annual revenue.
Ask was always a search ground-breaker, but for some reason it never caught on. Ask instituted a site preview feature similar, if slower and less smart than what Google announced today, in 2006. In 2007 Ask broke new ground on data privacy with the launch of the Ask Search Eraser. The company did music previews before Google, and more.
Unfortunately, the Ask search results never seemed as good as Google's. The company also didn't have the same kind of browser deals, promotional juice thanks to AdWords or cross-marketing from the wonderful email service Gmail.
Here are some of the things Ask has done well over the years:
- Blog Search
Ask.com blog search used to be the best because it let you sort by popularity, as defined by subscriber numbers in Bloglines, once the market-leading RSS reader. Blog search is gone now and Bloglines was sold to an advertising company on the eve of being shuttered.
For some reason, the prospect of subscribing to and searching for blogs has been widely rejected in favor of the ease and scale of Twitter and Facebook. It's sad.
- Search Facts
Ask has long offered semantically-informed search results snippets at the top of the results page, something Google started doing much later. For whatever reason, that just didn't move people enough to get them to use it regularly.
- Maps and Voice
Ask Maps has always been a viable alternative to Google Maps, for end-users. The inclusion of walking directions and search by voice are strong features, presumably with unclear futures now.
May you rest in peace, Ask.com. You fought a good fight.