SearchEngineLand’s Barry Schwartz has a good writeup on the news that Ask.com has fired 8% of its staff, and is planning on changing the strategy behind its search engine, to instead focus on its female user base.
Ask.com is being refocused to build … an engine that answers questions tailored to women searching on health and entertainment.
As others have justifiably asked, what’s the big deal? In the days of Ask Jeeves, the combination of being able to type wordy questions and have them answered by a cute illustrated butler was a nice novelty and all, but have they ever been a serious competitor to Google?
Less competitors in search means less reasons for the current players to innovate. If Google provides Ask.com with its search results, which is what is expected, and MS snaps up Yahoo, then there are only two players left in search. And with how poor of a showing Yahoo and MSN have made against Google thus far a monopoly is very possible as well as a slowdown in innovation.
Good news for Ask’s core users, bad news for search in general.