After my recent post about’s recent layoffs and change in strategic direction, I had an interesting chat to Nicholas Graham, spokesperson for Graham clarified a few details amid plenty of speculation that would be retiring its search functionality entirely.

“AP ran a story that suggested we were retiring our search technology — a story that just wasn’t true, and one that they in fact retracted.”

True or not, it certainly fueled the rumor mill, and combined with the recent layoffs, has placed a big question mark over whether’s new strategy is a good one — a predicament that has had Graham putting out fires ever since.

“The fact is that we have a very loyal user base — in fact, our research reveals that our core users, which happen to be primarily female, use to search for three types of information: reference, health, and entertainment. What’s interesting is that these users in fact use three times more than any other search engine,” commented Graham.

“We are definitely still innovating. We still plan on being a great search engine — the best, in fact, for users who are seeking answers. In fact, we’re hiring for some key roles to help support this new strategy.”

There’s certainly something to be said for the fact that if you try to be all things to all people, you’re guaranteed to fail, and I give credit for deciding to focus on its core users rather than its competition. But what percentage of users who type a query into a search engine are specifically searching for an answer? (as compared to, say, pictures, products, services, phone numbers…) How do you define an “answer”, anyway? And is it reasonable to expect users to use one search engine to find “answers”, and another for everything else? (personally, I just use Google for everything).

Two years ago, when the focus of the search engine was expanded and announced they would be tackling Google head on, they didn’t seem to think so. For Jeeves’ sake, I hope they’ve found the answer this time.

Matthew Magain is a UX designer with over 15 years of experience creating exceptional digital experiences for companies such as IBM, Australia Post, and He is the co-founder of UX Mastery, and recently co-authored Everyday UX, an inspiring collection of interviews with some of the best UX Designers in the world.

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  • Stevie D

    At one time I used a lot, but my main problem with it is that they don’t seem to ever update their index – it is still referencing websites that closed two years ago.

  • ParkinT

    I think for the average user [who has no understanding of the technology or operation of search engines], an “answer” really means SERP based on a query string phrased like a question.
    Thus, ASK.COM is a perfect domain name and they have performed according to [those] expectations.

  • copywriter39 has a lot to go to reinvent itself. And I’m not sure it’s core market will stick around. It may be too little, too late.

  • Anonymous

    You would think that after steadily falling for a long time, they would make a drastic change. I think they are probably just riding it out & milking it to the very end.

    I think a lot of ask users are the less internet-savvy type of people, and probably don’t even know about other SEs.

  • Alby10

    Ask has been struggling for some time,many new companies are trying to tackle google such as cuil, wether they are succesfull is another matter.

  • Alby10

    It’s about time google had some serious competition, they have become quite a dictator in the search market.

    CSelf Employed Loans

  • shareitall

    It isn’t reasonable to expect Ask to take on Google straight on, so change is obviously needed, thanks for the new info Matthew!

    entrepreneur blog

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