Tuesday, May 10th marks the official 15th birthday of Ask.com, which immediately gets me thinking, “Has it really been 15 years?” It’s hard to believe that 1996 (our founding year and a time period remembered as the dawn of “irrational exuberance”) was actually 15 years ago.
I joined the company in 2006 (as it was just turning the tender age of 10) to run products under Jim Lanzone. It was a pivotal time as we launched a series of product innovations in the race to compete with Google. Today, five years later, we’ve come full circle from our 1996 origin back to what we’re known for: delivering the best answers to the millions of questions our users ask, this time with a twist. We’re now blending search-based answers and human-powered ones – the only Q&A service to attempt to do so.
As I look back, Ask’s ability to tack across this ever-shifting landscape throughout the last 15 years is impressive - the hallmark of any business with staying power. Doing this while maintaining users and traffic (6th largest property and 90 million users) is no small feat. As the person at the helm today, this gives me confidence in our ability to navigate the future.
And what is the future for Q&A – specifically Ask.com’s flavor of Q&A?
During the next few years, Ask will increasingly be able to deliver answers and information based on what you tell us about who you are, where you are and what you’re doing. Factoring in this kind of context will mean things like:
— The ability to control the social graph around your Q&A behavior, such as routing and filtering questions and answers based on people you know and your relationships with them.
— Asking questions about a specific location, browsing questions and answers from people nearby, directing specific questions to people near you or people who visit the places you frequent most.
The underpinning of this, naturally, is mobile and this is an area Ask will continue to tackle aggressively over the next few years: a growing suite of mobile apps designed to accommodate a variety of use cases, ubiquity on all mobile platforms and operating systems, and more integration and transparency with third party developers. We want to be your de facto mobile Q&A experience. That’s what we’re aiming toward.
As we look at where the growth opportunities lie in terms of social, local and mobile, it occurs to me that Ask is really 15 years young. Yes, we have a well-known brand, plenty of traffic, and 15 years of experience understanding consumers, but it’s our start-up like thirst for innovation and commitment to building quality products that will get us where we need to go. Fifteen years brings with it plenty of hits and misses, but through it all Ask has always been consistent about one thing: building good, solid products.
So Happy Birthday Ask. Let’s bring on the next 15.