|Headquarters||Oakland, California, US|
|Alexa rank||40 (March 2015[update])|
|Type of site||Answer engine|
Ask.com (originally known as Ask Jeeves) is a question answering-focused web search engine founded in 1995 by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen in Berkeley, California. The original software was implemented by Gary Chevsky from his own design. Warthen, Chevsky, Justin Grant, and others built the early AskJeeves.com website around that core engine. In late 2010, facing insurmountable competition from Google, the company outsourced its web search technology and returned to its roots as a question and answer site. Douglas Leeds was elevated from president to CEO in 2010.
A well-known web browser add-on, the Ask.com toolbar, comes bundled with some freeware software like Java. The toolbar is considered a potentially unwanted program, a type of privacy-invasive software, because it is often installed inadvertently in conjunction with other programs. It is said to be notoriously hard to remove from the browser.
Three venture capital firms, Highland Capital Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, and The RODA Group were early investors. Ask.com is currently owned by InterActiveCorp under the NASDAQ symbol IAC.
Ask.com was originally known as Ask Jeeves, "Jeeves" being the name of a "gentleman's personal gentleman", or valet, fetching answers to any question asked. The character was based on Bertie Wooster's valet Jeeves, in the fictional works of P. G. Wodehouse.
The original idea behind Ask Jeeves was to allow users to get answers to questions posed in everyday, natural language, as well as by traditional keyword searching. The current Ask.com still supports this, with support for math, dictionary, and conversion questions.
In 2005 the company announced plans to phase out Jeeves and on February 27, 2006, the character disappeared from Ask.com. He was stated to be "going into retirement." However, the UK/Ireland edition of the website prominently brought the character back in 2009.
InterActiveCorp owns a variety of sites including country-specific sites for UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and Spain along with Ask Kids, Teoma (now ExpertRank) and several others. On June 5, 2007, Ask.com relaunched with a 3D look.
On May 16, 2006, Ask implemented a "Binoculars Site Preview" into its search results. On search results pages, the "Binoculars" let searchers capture a sneak peek of the page they could visit with a mouse-over activating screenshot pop-up.
In December 2007, Ask released the AskEraser feature, allowing users to opt-out from tracking of search queries and IP and cookie values. They also vowed to erase this data after 18 months if the AskEraser option is not set. HTTP cookies must be enabled for AskEraser to function.
Ask.com now reaches 100 million global users per month through its website with more than 2 million downloads of its flagship mobile app. The company has also released additional apps spun out of its Q&A experience, including Ask Around in 2011 and PollRoll in 2012.
Ask Jeeves, Inc. stock traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange from July 1999 to July 2005, under the ticker symbol ASKJ. In July 2005, the ASKJ ticker was retired upon the acquisition by InterActiveCorp, valuing ASKJ at US$1.85 billion.
In 2012 Ask.com made two acquisitions as part of a larger strategy to offer more content on the Ask.com website. On July 2, 2012, Ask.com purchased content discovery start-up, nRelate, for an undisclosed amount. That was followed by the company's acquisition of expert advice and information site About.com, which closed in September 2012.
On August 14, 2014, Ask.com acquired popular social networking website, Ask.fm, where users can ask other users questions, with the option of anonymity. As of August 14, 2014, Ask.fm had 180 million monthly unique users in more than 150 countries around the world, with its largest user base in the United States. Available on the web and as a mobile app, Ask.fm generates an estimated 20,000 questions per minute with approximately 45 percent of its mobile monthly active users logging in daily. To date, the mobile app has been downloaded more than 40 million times.
Ask Sponsored Listings
Formerly the direct sales engine for Ask.com, Ask Sponsored Listings is no longer available, merging with Sendori, an operating business of IAC, in 2011.
Criticism of Ask Toolbar as malicious software (malware)
The Ask Toolbar is a web-browser add-on that can appear as an extra bar added to the browser's window and/or menu. As it cannot be easily removed by using built-in uninstall features, it is often referred to as malware. The Ask.com toolbar is often unintentionally installed during the installation of partner software, including Oracle Java; this may take advantage of a user's lack of critical evaluation. As an operating business of InterActiveCorp, Ask Partner Network has entered into partnerships with some software security vendors, whereby they distribute the toolbar alongside their software. Installer packages for partner companies have an option (opt-out) to install the Ask Toolbar and/or change the user's default browser home page to Ask.com.
Ask.com and its parent company IAC have been heavily criticized due to its malware functionality as most consumers install the software unwittingly and, once installed, the toolbar hijacks the user's home page and points it to Ask.com, which in turn presents heavily biased search results. Additional malware-like behaviour is exhibited when the user attempts to un-install the software: The Ask toolbar uninstaller often refuses to run, citing 'insufficient admin priviledges', though this appears to be relatively recent behaviour. Other criticised activities include the ten-minute delay between installing updates to Java and the Ask installer running. The company defends its action by pointing out that instructions to remove the toolbar can be found on the Ask.com Help Center.
Marketing and promotion
Apostolos Gerasoulis, the co-creator of Ask's Teoma algorithmic search technology, starred in four television advertisements in 2007, extolling the virtues of Ask.com's usefulness for information relevance. A Jeeves balloon appeared in the 2001 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
After a hiatus from mass consumer marketing, Ask returned to TV advertising in the fall of 2011 after refocusing its site on questions and answers. Instead of national advertising, Ask focused on local markets with basic creative. In the summer of 2012, Ask launched a national cinema campaign, along with other out-of-home tactics in certain markets such as New York and Seattle.
As part of a Seattle-based local market effort, Ask.com launched its “You Asked We Answered” campaign in 2012, in which the company “answered” residents' top complaints about living in their city, including easing morning commutes and stadium traffic, as well as keeping the local Parks and Rec department wading pools open.
On January 14, 2009, Ask.com became the official sponsor of NASCAR driver Bobby Labonte's No. 96 car. Ask would become the official search engine of NASCAR. Ask.com will be the primary sponsor for the No. 96 for 18 of the first 21 races and has rights to increase this to a total of 29 races this season. The Ask.com car debuted in the 2009 Bud Shootout where it failed to finish the race, but subsequently returned strongly, placing as high as 5th in the March 1, 2009 Shelby 427 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Ask.com's foray into NASCAR represents the first instance of its venture into what it calls "Super Verticals".
Search engine shut-down
In 2010 Ask.com abandoned the search industry, with the loss of 130 search engineering jobs, because it could not compete against more popular search engines such as Google. Earlier in the year, Ask had launched a Q&A community for generating answers from real people as opposed to search algorithms then combined this with its question-and–answer repository, utilizing its extensive history of archived query data to search sites that provide answers to questions people have. To avoid a situation in which no answers were available from its own resources, the company outsourced to an unnamed third-party search provider the comprehensive web search matches that it had gathered itself.
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IAC, which partners with Oracle to deliver the Ask toolbar, uses deceptive techniques to install its software...The Ask.com search page delivers inferior search results and uses misleading and possibly illegal techniques to deceive visitors into clicking paid ads instead of organic search results.
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Bott found that the Ask.com toolbar was not immediately installed, but waited 10 minutes after Java finished to kick in. "I've never seen a legitimate program with an installer that behaves this way", said Bott
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