What happened to Ask Jeeves? Here's why the search engine failed (2023)


Ask Jeeves, now called Ask.com, is a question and answer website and search engine that allows users to search the Internet for answers.

Ask Jeeves was shut down because Ask.com, the company behind it, wanted to rebrand itself to further expand its position in the search industry.

Foi Ask Jeeves?

Ask Jeeves, now called Ask.com, is a question and answer (Q&A) website and search engine that allows users to search the Internet for answers.

The place was run by a butler named Jeeves, who came from the famous PG Wodehouse novels.

After entering a question, users were presented with a page of results that came from three main sources. This consisted of human-made editorial content, crawler-based results from Teoma (owned by Ask Jeeves), and paid listings provided by Google.

If Ask Jeeves didn't provide a suitable answer, it sent the request to one of its many editors, some of whom were employees of the company (while others simply agreed to share their expertise).

The site also offers a variety of content discovery sections such as: B. "Recent Questions" or categories based sections such as Travel, Health, Money and more. It had its own news page, as well as a children's section.

Ask Jeeves has also licensed its search engine to other companies, such as Nike, to improve search results on their websites.

Just like any other search engine, Ask Jeeves showed sponsored results. These sponsored listings were based on results provided by Google.

In 2006, Ask Jeeves changed its name to Ask.com, retiring its beloved butler after nearly 10 years. How it came about, who was behind it, and why it was finally renamed will be discussed in later chapters.

What happened to ask Jeeves?

Ask Jeeves, formerly based in Oakland, California, was founded in 1996 by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen.

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Before starting the search page, Warthen was co-founder of a software development company that, among other things, carried out projects for companies like Microsoft and Logicraft.

Eventually, he met Gruener, who was working as a venture capitalist at the time and therefore at the forefront of the emergence of Internet companies.

At that time, search dominatedhigh view, which was introduced in December 1995. Although AltaVista represented a vast improvement over existing search engines, its search function was dominated by simple combinations of one or two words.

Gruener and Warthen found that Internet users want to search the web while being able to use natural language. The results would then be supported by human editor tropes, as mentioned earlier.

In June 1996, the two officially founded the company. To emphasize the search engine's personal touch, they were inspired by the work of P.G. Wodehouse. His fiction included a valet named Jeeves, who served the English gentleman Bertie Wooster.

After almost a year working at the company, Ask Jeeves was introduced to the public on June 1, 1997.

What happened to Ask Jeeves? Here's why the search engine failed (1)

Shortly after the launch in September, the duo managed to secure a first round of institutional funding from The Roda Group. Because of its new human-centric approach, Ask Jeeves has rapidly increased its traffic numbers.

In October 1998, over 300,000 searches were performed on the site - every day. Not long after, it began licensing its software to other sites, which in turn paid the company a fee to improve its internal search results.

The rapid rise of Ask Jeeves also enabled the team to raise a second round of funding from Institutional Venture Partners (IVP) and Highland Capital Partners. The two VCs together invested $25 million in the company.

In the summer of 1999, with over a million daily searches and the dot-com craze at an all-time high, the executive team at Ask Jeeves decided to enter the public market. In July 1999, Ask Jeeves went public on Nasdaq, raising $42 million.

The Ask Jeeves IPO became the third best stock debut at the time. The company's shares soared from $14 to more than $80 on the first day of trading. All this hype was based on just $800,000 in revenue for the company in 1998 (losing $4.26 million over the same period).

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Demand for the stock has remained unchanged, especially after Ask Jeeves struck a deal with Microsoft to answer Windows 98 support questions. search.

Flying high, the company announced in November that it had agreed to acquire online customer support software maker Net Effect Systems, Inc. for approximately $288 million in an equity deal.

To fund the takeover, Ask Jeeves raised a further £50m from British television companies Carlton Communication and Granada Group in early December. In the weeks that followed, Ask Jeeves signed even more licensing deals with companies like About.com, Nike, Fidelity, and dozens more.

On February 3, 2000, Ask Jeeves announced its second acquisition in the face of rapid revenue growth. Acquired Direct Hit in a $500 million stock deal. Direct Hit would provide Ask Jeeves with an automated tracker-based solution to display even more results.

Unfortunately, the company's fate would soon change for the worse. A month after the acquisition, the dot-com bubble finally burst, resulting in dozens of internet company failures. Those who survived, including Ask Jeeves, saw their share price literally evaporate overnight.

Ask Jeeves also continued to post massive losses. One of the negative effects of the stock price drop was the departure of key employees such as COO Ted Briscoe, who left the company after just two months.

To mitigate the decline, Ask Jeeves sought to capitalize on its brand awareness. In June 2000, for example, he published a book for children with a strong focus on the butler. In fiscal 1999, the company lost $42.4 million on sales of $22 million.

Longtime CEO Rob Wrubel resigned in December due to ongoing financial problems. Additionally, Ask Jeeves had to lay off 25% of its workforce.

One benefit of the economic downturn, however, was that other companies could also be bought for pennies on the dollar. In May 2001, Ask Jeeves acquired direct marketing company eTour. Four months later, the company also acquired Teoma Technologies to enhance its search engine capabilities and improve the results displayed.

However, other acquisitions were not as successful. Direct Hit, for example, sat idle for over a year without any significant resources being invested in it. Despite a staggering $400 million loss in 2001, Ask Jeeves acquired other companies, including Octopus Software, in January 2002.

In addition, it completely redesigned its web and reduced it to imitate Google and Yahoo, with the former growing at an extremely aggressive pace. Speaking of Google, the two companies struck a deal in July 2002 that would show Google ads in Ask Jeeves search results.

While the move was an acknowledgment that Google was simply better at making money, it ultimately allowed Ask Jeeves to become profitable in the second half of 2002.

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Meanwhile, Ask Jeeves invested more resources in its Teoma search engine, which in early 2003 reached about 25% of Internet users in North America. As the advertising industry recovered, Ask Jeeves was able to put more resources into its business.

To further increase its profitability, the company decided to sell its enterprise software unit for approximately $4.25 million in cash. This allowed the company to fully engage with its search engine, for example adding flight and weather information or country maps.

While Google became the undisputed leader in search in 2004, its rapid rise has also allowed less popular search engines to experience tremendous growth. As a result, Ask Jeeves was back on the acquisition train, acquiring Interactive Search Holdings Inc. in March 2004 for $343 million in cash and stock. My Web Search, Excite, iWon and MaxOnline.

Three months later, in June, the company bought tech company Tukaroo to add desktop search to its offering. In August, Ask Jeeves also expanded into Japan (against a joint venture with Tokyo-based software company Transcosmos), its first market expansion in over four years.

However, the first signs of what was to come would arrive in September. For nearly a week, Ask Jeeves took down its famous butler, with the company declaring it was putting him on "garden leave". After about a week's absence, he was reinstated with a new, younger-looking design.

The company continued to grow positively, which allowed it to make another acquisition in February 2005. It acquired Trustic, which owns Blogline, and allowed Ask Jeeves to add blog publishing capabilities to the site (which Google and Yahoo already offered). Furthermore, after four years, the company has again promoted its service through TV spots.

However, these announcements were overtaken by much bigger news. In late March 2005, InterActiveCorp (IAC), led by legendary media executive Barry Diller, announced that it would buy Ask Jeeves for $1.95 billion. The acquisition finally took place in July.

Now that it had the support of the IAC, one of the first actions it took was to reduce the aggressive ad banners that plagued the site, thus providing a much cleaner user experience. Furthermore, Ask Jeeves has revealed its intentions to aggressively invade other countries. It even introduced an ad bidding system similar to what made Google so successful.

On the other hand, Ask Jeeves would integrate with a variety of other IAC sites including LendingTree.com, Match.com,CollegeHumor, Vimeo, Ticketmaster and others.

Still, the biggest change had yet to be announced. After a barrage of obscene comments, it was made official on February 26th.º, 2006. The company announced that it was renaming from Ask Jeeves to Ask.com, effectively getting rid of its beloved butler (as well as introducing a variety of new features such as improved maps and directions, encyclopedia search, and web-based desktop search). ). ).

However, this was certainly not the end of the company. To lead it into this new era, Ask.com announced that longtime manager Jim Lazone would become its newest CEO in April, effectively replacing Steve Berkowitz).

Some of its initiatives have included integrating bloglines into Ask.com search results, reaching an agreement with Lycos to improve its search results, or launching a new map product calledAskCity, Among other things. In 2007, IAC spent over $100 million promoting Ask.com on television and other types of advertisements.but it got a little hotabout the final run.

(Video) Ask.com

But, as expected, even the most aggressive marketing campaigns weren't enough to leave marks. While Ask.com managed to overtake AOL to become America's fourth most popular search engine behind Google, Yahoo Search and Bing, it ultimately failed to break Google's dominance.

In February 2008, Ask.com laid off 40 of its engineers (representing 8% of its workforce), sold its Teoma search engine, and changed its CEO (replacing Jim Lazone with Jim Safka). Interestingly, that hasn't stopped the company from continuing to make heavy purchases.

In May, Ask.com purchased Dictionary.com's parent company, Lexico (which also owned and operated Thesaurus), for a whopping $100 million. After realizing that it had lost the battle against Google, Ask.com once again began to flood its site with ads to maximize its earnings. In fact, it has become the only major search engine to show ads (mostly from other IAC companies such as Match.com).

Surprisingly, and almost out of the blue, the company's UK unit announced in April 2009 that it was bringing back Butler and renaming it back to Ask Jeeves. In addition, it would invest millions in promoting the relaunched brand. The rebranding was the result of customers repeatedly asking for Jeeves to be brought back.

Ironically, in the end, the company decided to come full circle. In early 2010, Q&A sites such asTo quote, Yahoo Answers or ChaCha became more and more popular with consumers, prompting Ask.com to rebrand itself again.

The company stopped being a search engine and returned to being a question and answer site. The transition wasn't painless, however. In November, Ask.com had to cut 130 engineering jobs.

Over the next few years, Ask released two different mobile apps that either integrated with apps like Lonely Planet or added polls to their platform. By then, however, the company's best days were behind it.

However, the site is still visited by tens of millions of people every month, largely thanks to the strength of its branding. In addition, the company employs around 250 people.

Why did Ask Jeeves fail?

Ask Jeeves was shut down because Ask.com, the company behind it, wanted to rebrand itself to further expand its position in the search industry.

At the time of the closing, immediately following IAC's acquisition of Ask Jeeves, the company had announced that it wanted to become a stronger competitor to Google.

As a result, it invested heavily in advertising, cutting ads on its site and making some big acquisitions.

To be associated as a search brand rather than a Q&A brand, executives thought it best to get rid of the butler.

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After all, Ask Jeeves managed to conquer a lot of customers and as a result had a strong brand attached to it.

Certainly, the company conducted numerous interviews and surveys to ensure that the rebranding was the right strategic move.

In the end, it wasn't enough to compete with Google, Bing, and others, who were way ahead to catch up.


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