In what might be most-generously described as an unexpected about-face, search engine Ask.com is apparently giving up its efforts to compete with search engines at Microsoft, Yahoo, and the ever-dominant Google, and instead will retool itself as a niche site focusing on offering information to married women seeking to better organize their lives.
"Everyone at Ask is excited about our clear focus and the trajectory-changing results it will deliver," newly-installed CEO Jim Safka said in a statement. Safka took over the reins of Ask.com back in January following the departure of former CEO Jim Lazone, who ran the search engine for six years. Before taking over Ask.com. Safka led online dating service Match.com.
As part of the transformation, the Oakland-based company will lay off about 40 people, or just under ten percent of its workers.
For years, Ask.com has been trying to compete with Google and other popular Internet search engines, first under the watchful eye of its ever-present butler mascot Jeeves. Ask acquired various Internet properties (like search engine Excite.com and iWon.com) in 2005, and ad netwok MaxOnline), and was itself eventually acquired by Barry Diller’s IAC in 2005 for an astounding $1.9 billion. However, despite a revamp that found the company losing its famed butler, a rush to add features designed to put it a step ahead of the competition, and recent industry-leading promises of user privacy control, Ask.com was not able to gain significant traction in the Internet search marketplace: comScore consistently ranked it at the lower end of the top five search engines with around a five percent share of the market, while Google claimed more than half the market, Yahoo between 20 and 25 percent, and everyone else (including Microsoft) scrambled for the remainders.
Apparently, Ask.com believes its core demographic is women using the search engine to get answers to simple questions; the revamped version of the site will focus on married women as its core demographic, and try to answer questions about health, hobbies, family matters, childrens’ homework, recipes, and entertainment.