Out of Answers

Joe Johnson

It was announced yesterday that the once highly successful search platform ‘’, was laying off 130 of its employees in the U.S and China after making the decision to withdraw from the ultra-competitive search market. Instead, the Ask brand will refocus on a direct question and answer service, using real humans to answer queries.

Although the official word from Ask is that they are undertaking a strategic re-evaluation of their goals, the fact is the ‘dot com boom’ era business is no longer able tread water in what is a ferociously contested market. The move comes as Google continues to monopolise the search world, with young pretender Bing snapping it its heels.

When the two big players are showcasing innovations on and almost daily basis such as instant search, local results, page previews and social media integration, Ask, whose unique selling point might have seemed revolutionary ten years ago, is now very much old hat.

I was in my early teens when Ask, then called ‘Ask Jeeves’, first debuted. Being naive and not particularly tech savvy, I foolishly assumed there was a friendly Butler of sorts sitting at a computer in a stately mansion in Buckinghamshire answering everyone’s banal questions. This of course led me and many others to test Jeeves’ patience with childish queries like.


‘What’s my name?’


‘What am I wearing?’


‘What am I thinking?… As well as other unmentionable obscenities.


The demise of Ask demonstrates how rapidly the digital world moves and how something which was once considered a revolutionary new service can be so ruthlessly condemned to obsolescence by quick-thinking competition.

Google may one day face a similar fate but for the moment it is constantly developing and testing to stay abreast of trends.




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