Ask and you shall receive, especially when it comes to the Internet. Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves) operates an online question-and-answer service. The site solicits users to ask questions, as well as answer questions from other users. Results reveal answers from a variety of sources. Previously the operator of a search engine, Ask.com switched gears in 2010. While it still offers search on its site, it no longer compiles an index of billions of Web pages. Instead, it delivers results via an agreement with search partner Google. Ask.com operates alongside websites such as CityGrid Media's Citysearch.com and Lexico Publishing Group's Dictionary.com as part of the Search holdings of IAC/InterActiveCorp (IAC).
In 2010 the parent company reported that its Search revenue increased by more than $155 million compared to the previous year, which was a major factor in IAC's overall growth in revenues and profits. The increase from Search reflects a growing number of queries from IAC's downloadable toolbars and destination websites such as Dictionary.com and Excite.com. Ask.com is the Web's fourth-largest search company, with some 90 million users.
The business changed its strategic direction after IAC was forced to write down $900 million on the value of Ask.com in 2009, thanks to a down economy and a weak advertising market. As a result, the company relaunched Ask.com in 2010, incorporating a larger strategy of answering users' questions rather than just delivering links. The new site draws on several sources to answer questions, including search technology, an online Q&A database, and Ask.com community members.
Also as part of the changes, Ask.com laid off 130 workers and closed its offices in Edison, New Jersey, and Hangzhou, China. The company is carving out a space for itself in this emerging niche ("social searching") to gain ground in a search market dominated by Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.
Ask.com continues to provide search results, however. It has an advertising partnership with Google -- worth an estimated $3.5 billion -- that expires in 2012. The deal grants Google the right to sell ads on Ask.com and other IAC sites. Google accounts for more than 40% of revenues.
Also in 2012 the company acquired information portal About from The New York Times for about $300 million. The deal adds nearly 1,000 topic sites and more than three million unique articles to Ask.com's search-able content. It also adds About's 100 million monthly unique users to its existing user base of more than 100 million global visitors.
The search engine was originally named after Jeeves, the helpful butler in P.G. Wodehouse novels. IAC dropped the manservant mascot and rebranded its search business from Ask Jeeves to the Ask.com banner in 2005. The parent company announced a restructuring in 2007, making Ask the flagship brand of its sprawling Internet properties. – less