Home Disruption Opportunity: Beating Google at Their Own Game

Disruption Opportunity: Beating Google at Their Own Game

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

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)

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