Jim Lanzone of Ask is pumped up about the future of search

By August 22, 2007

The CEO of Ask.com went on stage at SES 2007 on Tuesday morning to discuss its recently-launched Ask3D interface and to explain its position in the crowded search market. When you are challenging the Yahoos and Googles of the wor

ld, questions about your market share are bound to come up. Without fail, that was one of the first questions thrown at Jim Lanzone during his keynote chat. “People have been billing us as an attempt to topple Google. We don’t sit around and ask ourselves “How can we capture market share?” Instead, we want to push search forward and satisfy users,” deflected Lanzone.  But he was also prompt to point out that Ask.com has shown the fastest growth in market share in 2006. By that measure, it is now the fourth-largest search engine after Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. An achievement which made Lanzone a natural to address a roomful of SES attendees in San Jose on Tuesday morning.  “We must be on to something with Ask3D because we have seen great user spikes. We want to help users find the right thing at the right time,” added Lanzone. Officially launched last June, Ask3D boasts a new algorithm as well as a three-tiered result page which is supposed to provide more information at a glance.  Ask’s relationship with Google is complicated. “In 2002, it was controversial when we chose them over Overture [as our ad network]. If we renew that deal, it is going to be a multi-million dollar deal this time. But in search, we are competing for users. We like to call it coopetition,” said Lanzone.  Ask, which nearly did not make it through the dot-com bust back when it was known as Ask Jeeves, was sold to Barry Diller’s IAC (Ticketmaster, Evite, Match.com,…) for $2.3 billion two years ago. Over the last 18 months, the search engine went through an intensive redesign. “It is a combination of art and science. We are a technology-driven company with about 75% of engineers and technical people based in China, Italy or wherever the talent is,” explained Lanzone. The company is headquartered in Oakland, California. To a recent outbreak of concerns about privacy, Lanzone has a simple answer. “It was a slow summer in news,” he quipped. “It is not important to most people. But if it is very important to you, we are about to launch Ask Erasure. We won’t track any of your history.”  “Mobile search is an important place to innovate. In May, we launched Ask Mobile GPS with Sprint. I believe that mobile is a platform and that it is not all about local searches,” said Lanzone. On the other hand, he thinks that personalization will remain a niche because 10 years of experience have shown him that few people spend the time to change their settings. Lanzone can remember a time when search engines had no future. “It was thought that you would bookmark 30 favorite sites and would not need a search engine anymore. Now search engines are a daily tool, they are our co-pilots.” He is also heartened by the perspective of collective search. “51 million users can leave lots of bread crumbs for everyone else. I believe in collective search and we have a great patent in that area.” To stake its claim in the search engine sandbox, Ask is launching a new TV campaign next week. A cursor flutters over a search results page from Ask with its many options (images, blogs, news,…). The image then cuts to a rival’s page and its ordinary list of results. “It is hard for people to understand that search can be better.” Read more about SES 2007: 'It is the largest SES ever" Isabelle Boucq for Atelier from San Jose FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at editorial@atelier-us.com

Legal mentions © L’Atelier BNP Paribas