Ask.com Celebrates 15th Birthday

Ask.com the social search/Q&A engine is 15 years old. Founded in 1996 as Ask Jeeves by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen the company has launched a special social site to celebrate its birthday and review events of the past 15 years — mylast15.com.

Here’s a brief recent history of Ask:

  • July 1999: Ask Jeeves goes public
  • March 2005: IAC buys Ask Jeeves for $1.85 billion
  • February 2006: Jeeves the Butler goes into retirement
  • April 2006: Steve Berkowitz, head of Ask.com, leaves to join Microsoft. Jim Lazone named CEO of Ask
  • June 2007: Lanzone launches innovative Ask 3D UI, which other engines copy to varying degrees
  • January 2008: Lanzone is out as Ask CEO, Jim Safka replaces him but later leaves
  • April 2009: Jeeves the Butler returns in the UK
  • July 2009: Doug Leeds takes over as CEO of Ask
  • July 2010: Ask embraces “social search” (Q&A) and establishes current strategy

Ask has a relatively stable following at about 3 percent of overall search volume.

Current Ask CEO Doug Leeds says the following about where the company is going:

During the next few years, Ask will increasingly be able to deliver answers and information based on what you tell us about who you are, where you are and what you’re doing. Factoring in this kind of context will mean things like:

— The ability to control the social graph around your Q&A behavior, such as routing and filtering questions and answers based on people you know and your relationships with them.

— Asking questions about a specific location, browsing questions and answers from people nearby, directing specific questions to people near you or people who visit the places you frequent most.

The underpinning of this, naturally, is mobile and this is an area Ask will continue to tackle aggressively over the next few years:  a growing suite of mobile apps designed to accommodate a variety of use cases, ubiquity on all mobile platforms and operating systems, and more integration and transparency with third party developers. We want to be your de facto mobile Q&A experience. That’s what we’re aiming toward.

While Ask still has a meaningful following and usage it’s struggling to overcome insiders’ perceptions that it is no longer relevant in search. That’s not something that regular users care about however. But if mobile is the focus for the future — something consumers do care about — Ask really needs to execute at an unprecedented level.

Related Entries

Related Topics: Ask: Business Issues | Ask: Employees | Ask: General | Ask: Web Search | Channel: Search Marketing

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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