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Ask.com, remember them? Well, believe it or not, they’re still the 4th most popular search engine in the UK (behind Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing) and are the 47th most visited website*, ranking in higher than Apple and LinkedIn.
Unfortunately, ever since the butler-inspired service was introduced, it has been slowly slipping in popularity. There was, as I’m sure you remember, a huge surge in initial popularity. The Ask Jeeves concept of doing searches in the form of an entire question rather than the usual keywords resonated with Internet users looking for something different.
Google, released just prior, quickly dominated the market though and despite efforts to promote the brand, Ask fell into relative obscurity. But it’s far from bad news, Ask are now climbing back up the rankings once more. As the chart below demonstrates, by the end of 2008, they were in the Internet doldrums, with a ranking of between 100 and 150. However, over the last 18 months, their online stock has gradually risen and, according to a report on the Times website, they’re not finished yet.
Relying predominantly on a slight rebranding and nostalgia for the company’s former glory, Ask Jeeves appear to be readying a search engine that can purge users away from Google and the others. Their pitch is simple enough, Ask is a search engine and nothing more. There are no added extras, no gimmicks (beyond the PG Wodehouse butler of course) and a viable question and answer service.
With a turbulent history of buyouts and management overhauls, the more stable company now looks better equipped to provide search results to rival its (arguably) more illustrious competitors. Will they be able to close the gap further? Very possibly. But with the amalgamation of Yahoo and Microsoft next year and Google’s long-standing dominance, competition for places is stronger than it has ever been.
The better news though is that monetising the company doesn’t require a major growth boost. Just a small slice of the £1.2billion search industry in the UK provides ample compensation; but of course, the more successful the site becomes, the bigger the slice they can achieve.
Search is a thriving industry and I don’t think many would begrudge Ask their share of the spoils. With vast improvements in search results and speed, their competitiveness is improving, but is that enough? Well, time will tell; but this dot com boom brand still clearly has a taste for the fight as evidenced in an intriguing article from The Times – “Ask Jeeves is on a mission to be indispensable”.
*According to current Alexa rankings