IAC Ends Ask’s Search Emphasis

After years of insisting that he was in the search business for the long haul, IAC chairman and CEO Barry Diller is crying uncle.

The company is shifting Ask.com away from competing with Google on an algorithmic, technology-based search basis toward becoming a human-driven, question-and-answer service model, according to Bloomberg.com. Ask is said to be cutting 130 engineering jobs, while consolidating its engineering business within its Oakland, Calif., offices.

IAC purchased Ask — then Ask Jeeves — in 2005 for $1.85 billion. Over the past five years, Diller has spoken boldly about challenging Google, while pouring money into the company’s technology. Ask has also executed multiple expensive branding campaigns in an effort to distinguish itself from Google, which dominates the search category by handling roughly 65 percent of all queries in the U.S.

Yet despite being praised by many in the online ad world for making technological and performance strides, Ask has hardly been able to exceed 4 percent market share (it landed at 3.7 percent in September, per comScore).

Ask.com president Doug Leeds told Bloomberg that Google’s clout in the market was difficult to overcome. “It’s become this huge juggernaut of a company that we really thought we could compete against by innovating,” he said. “We did a great job of holding our market share but it wasn’t enough to grow the way IAC had hoped we would grow when it bought us.”