This week, Ask.com celebrated its 15-year anniversary. You may recall a time when Ask was one of the most-used and talked about search engines on the web, and now the company has basically abandoned search in favor of a focus on Q&A, while using “a third party search provider” to provide its search results.
We had the chance to ask CEO Doug Leeds a few questions about the company’s past and future. Below are those questions and his responses.
Looking back to where Ask was 15 years ago, what surprises you the most about where it is today?
“That we’ve come full circle. Ask has always been about questions and answers, but for a time, competitively speaking, we were focused on search as the primary means to that end. Throughout the last 15 years, one thing has remained constant: users come to us to ask questions and get answers, a behavior different than search. This has never changed – in fact, Ask.com sees more queries in the form of a question than any other site. Today, we’ve gone back to whole-heartedly focusing on that value proposition, but doing so through an approach that blends search with human-powered answers. Approach is different, goal is the same.”
What is Ask’s greatest accomplishment over the past 15 years?
“Many of our 1996 compatriots are no longer in the same business – if they’re in business at all. Ask.com is the 6th biggest property in the US with 90 million users. We’ve survived and grown because we offer users something unique. I’m pretty proud of that.”
Where will Ask be in another 5 years?
“There is a huge opportunity before us. The Q&A category is bigger than ever because no one has cracked this quite yet – and we are in an excellent position to do so given our approach and history with the consumer. Also, you’ll see us continue to invest in mobile over the next five years, as Q&A behavior increasingly translates to mobile devices. We have a pretty aggressive mobile product roadmap. I’d like to see us as the dominant provider of mobile Q&A services a few years from now.”
Ask recently launched “Ask Around,” a mobile app that takes advantage of location and maps, and integrates them into the Q&A experience. We spoke with Ask’s Chief product and technology officer Lisa Kavanaugh about that at SXSW:
Last month when Ask parent company IAC released its earnings, Chairman Barry Diller estimated IAC’s recent contract renewal with Google to be worth $5.5 billion over five years.
To commemorate the 15-year anniversary of Ask.com, the company has launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #MyLast15, encouraging people to Tweet, TwitPic or TwitVid their favorite, funniest or even most horrifying memory from over the last 15 years.