Ask.com was/is one of the most resourceful and innovative search engines on the market and has claimed a relatively significant chunk of online search market. Its Teoma technology (called ExpertRank later) uses subject specific popularity to rank the results and the Ask.com team has integrated authority content driven Smart Answers and blended search into their system in a more user friendly setting than Google.
Now after layoffs and a restructuring of the company as a more IAC friendly component, the future of Ask.com is bleak and unknown.
As great as the technology was/is, its sad the search engine is folding shop and going niche, as many are speculating that Ask.com and IAC will be selling off the Teoma technology and replacing its search results with Google (although Ask.com has said that his is not the case despite reports of Ask.com already serving Google results).
If Google does take advantage of its existing relationship with Ask.com; feeding its search results and possibly acquiring Teoma, where does that leave searchers?
In a world with Microsoft possibly acquiring Yahoo and Google powering Ask.com and AOL results, searchers would only have the choice of two search engines at their fingertips. Just like Fox saw an opportunity in the restricted three network world of television in the 1980′s, and viewers jumped to something different to watch Al Bundy, Johnny Depp and the Simpsons; if search becomes consolidated to two competing technologies then the opportunity will be ripe for a new alternative to step in, a new hope.
So, what after Ask.com? There is a significant chunk of search market share and which engine comes out to lead here? The rational assumption would be that the major biggies in the search space – Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live, will fill this space.
But there are plenty of new technologies out there and it will be interesting to see when (and if) any of the engines comes to claim a significant share of the search market. Also, verticalization in search has had a much profound impact but not to the extent to replace generic search.
1. AOL : One scenario I’ve been tossing around is that if IAC decides to sell off Teoma search technology, AOL would be an obvious suitor for the search engine and doing so would help to break their dependency on Google as the base architecture for their current search engine. AOL is expanding and expanding fast with the acquisition of Bebo today and they’re play for a signifiicant role in the EU market and bringing in more euros into their dollar dependent advertising arm.
They already have the pieces of the puzzle in Truveo, Relegence, Yedda Semantic Search and Quigo and have the goods to monetize search and their channels, and whether they buy Teoma or develop their own search engine, AOL is going to become a major player in the search field and challenge the Yahoo, Google and Microsoft machines by 2010 (my prediction).
2. Gigablast has owned their own proprietary search technology since 2000 and has built their business model in supplying third party search to other sites and other business services. Gigablast is somewhat similar to Google in being a search engine which relies heavily on links and anchor text with its algorithm, but also offers internal categorical and freshness factor searches.
After eight years of flying under the search marketing radar, Gigablast has relaunched and is actively marketing their company and search technology as a proven alternative to the major search engines, without any new confusing Powerset-esque changes to search and in my opinion, are positioning themselves for a buyout or investment. If AOL does not buy Teoma, they may find a huge bargain in Gigablast.
Regardless, on their own, I could see Gigablast getting the cash funding injection to take their search engine to the next level and grab some of that Ask.com market share. By the way, after eight years, Gigablast still does not serve ads.
Or will other styles of search become more prevalent?
3. Media Search Engines: Engines like Like.com and Blinkx may perhaps grow to have a larger share of the search pie. The growth in media online and the technologies that the engines are deploying to make content within videos and audio searchable may contribute a lot in making these engines mainstream.
4. Semantic approach: Semantic engines map content to keywords. The important characteristic of semantic engines is that it will surface new relevant content as and when it is available on the net. But that has failed to dominate any of the traditional giants in the search space. Perhaps now is the time.
Here are some of the major Semantic Search Engines :
5. Open Search : Though the open search engine approach may take several years before making an impact, increased market share may add more credence to the approach. Will Wikia Search or another Nutch project take the reigns?
In your opinion, is there any other approach or particular search engine that you think may rise to take the place of Ask.com?