Ask.com to Cut 130 Engineering Jobs, Drop Algorithmic Search Technology

Algorithmic search technology is out at Ask.com and question-and-answer is in, as Bloomberg reports that parent company IAC will slash 130 engineering jobs and pull out of the search-engine business to focus on the online Q&A part of the business.

The search unit will be based in Oakland, Calif., with the affected jobs in Edison, N.J., and Hangzhou, China, and IAC will invite 20 of the New Jersey engineers to move out West, Bloomberg reported.

Ask.com president Doug Leeds told Bloomberg:

(Google has) become this huge juggernaut of a company that we really thought we could compete against by innovating. We did a great job of holding our market share, but it wasn’t enough to grow the way IAC had hoped we would grow when it bought us.

“We’ve realized in the last few years you can’t compete head on with Google,” IAC chairman and CEO Barry Diller added.

Leeds also posted the news on the Ask.com Blog. Highlights:

While extremely hard, this decision was made for a number of reasons we believe will ultimately benefit our company and our products, including cost, office location, and — most important — focus. As our loyal staff knows best, Ask has taken a lot of flak through the years, fairly and unfairly, for not having a focused, cohesive strategy, for ping-ponging across different approaches and marketing tactics. The current team ended that. We know that receiving answers to questions is why Ask.com users come to the site, and we are now serving them in everything we do.

Unfortunately, this absolute focus means that we need to stop investing in things outside of providing users with the best answers, including making the huge capital investment required to support algorithmic-Web-search development. This investment in independent Web search is not required by our strategy, nor is it required in the marketplace. We have access to multiple third-party structured and unstructured data feeds that, when integrated, can provide a Web-search experience on par with what we are able to produce internally, at much lower costs.

Consolidating our engineering resources in a central location — our Bay-area headquarters — will also make it possible for us to swiftly respond to the hyper-competitive arena that Q&A has become. We need a team that is able to work side-by-side, face-to-face, idea to idea, as much as possible. We simply aren’t able to do that with our team fractured across the country, across the globe.

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