Search portal Ask.com is eliminating 130 engineering workers from its payroll and consolidating its workforce in one location in Oakland, Calif., over the next few months, the company announced Nov. 9. The company's strategy now is to have a focus on question-and-answer content--something it had been doing in the past, but it now means it will no longer compete with Google and others in algorithmic search and indexing of the entire Internet.
The two offices being closed include Edison, N.J., and Hangzhou, China.
"We know that receiving answers to questions is why Ask.com users come to the site, and we are now serving them in everything we do," wrote Doug Leeds, president of Ask.com-US in a blog post explaining the restructuring. "Unfortunately, this absolute focus means that we need to stop investing in things outside of providing users with the best answers, including making the huge capital investment required to support algorithmic Web search development. This investment in independent Web search is not required by our strategy, nor is it required in the marketplace."
Ask.com, formerly known as Ask Jeeves, had begun as a question-and-answer Website in 1996 but soon switched gears in an attempt to compete with Google and Yahoo. The Ask.com brand--which includes Dictionary.com and Bloglines--is owned by Barry Diller's content- and commerce-filled company of Internet brands at InterActive. Diller purchased Ask Jeeves in 2005 for $1.9 billion and expected to grow market share in the search business.
Today, Ask.com is ranked sixth in the search market, according to Nielsen ratings and with this most recent move, has signed an agreement to use search from a competitor, but is keeping that information confidential, according to a report from Bloomberg.
"Make no mistake that execution of our Q&A strategy still requires a great deal of technology investment and technical innovation, much of which is search-related, involving crawling and indexing the Web's breadth of questions and answers, and using search-based algorithms to route the right question to the best potential answer," wrote Leeds. "Beyond this, our proprietary Answer Products will continue to be a key point of differentiation for us in the Q&A space. We will continue to make the technology investments necessary across all of these fronts to develop the very best Q&A experience on the Web."