In the mid to late 1990s, before the rise of Google, Ask.com -- then called Ask Jeeves -- was a leading search engine, along with others like Altavista and WebCrawler. After the dot com bubble burst, Ask Jeeves de-emphasized its consumer search engine and focused on providing search services and software to the enterprise market. However, it abandoned this strategy in mid-2003, exiting the enterprise market and vowing to regain the ground lost in the consumer search space.
Since then, Ask.com has regularly updated and enhanced its search engine, often earning praise from industry experts for clever and useful innovations in technology and layout. Unfortunately, the company's share of search usage in the U.S. has fluctuated in recent years roughly between 4 percent and 7 percent, coming nowhere near market leader Google, which has in turn increased its dominance more and more.
For example, in November 2005, Google handled almost 40 percent of all U.S. queries, while Ask Jeeves placed fifth with 6.5 percent, according to comScore. By comparison, in August of this year, Google had a 63 percent share of U.S. searches, while Ask.com placed fourth with 4.8 percent, according to comScore.
Evan Andrews, a Jupiter Research analyst who was given a demo of the new and improved features, said Ask.com has a chance to attract new users, something that is hard in the search engine market because people grow very attached to their preferred provider -- Google for most.
However, there is a segment of users that Jupiter Research has identified as "power searchers" that have a voracious appetite for new search products and features. They might be drawn to give Ask.com a try and stick around if they like the improvements in blending different types of results, the so-called universal search concept that Google and all other major search providers are pursuing.