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September 10, 2010

Bloglines Update

Today, Ask.com let our users know that we will shut down Bloglines on October 1 November 1. Not an easy decision, especially considering our loyal and supportive (not to mention patient) user base, but, ultimately, the right one given business reasons simply too hard to ignore.

Primarily, it’s about focus. Our focus here at Ask is on building out our Q&A offering. Our beta, released in a very limited fashion at the end of July, is seeing steady community growth with an answer to question ratio of 2:1, which underscores the fact people are motivated to provide answers. Another encouraging metric? On average, users who are active within the community are asking 2 questions a day. These early numbers build on the competitive advantage we already have in the marketplace – the fact that 30% of the searches on our site are already in the form of a question – and are further proof Ask needs to continue its tight focus on delivering the best possible answers to users.

A little perspective: when we originally acquired Bloglines in 2005, RSS was in its infancy. The concept of “push” versus “search” around information consumption had become very real, and we were bullish about the opportunity Bloglines presented for our users. 
Flash forward to 2010. The Internet has undergone a major evolution. The real-time information RSS was so astute at delivering (primarily, blog feeds) is now gained through conversations, and consuming this information has become a social experience. As Steve Gillmor pointed out in TechCrunch last year , being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow. Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system. RSS is a means to an end, not a consumer experience in and of itself. As a result, RSS aggregator usage has slowed significantly, and Bloglines isn’t the only service to feel the impact.. The writing is on the wall.

That said, plenty of people are still RSS aggregator-faithful, and Bloglines was lucky enough to be the news aggregator of choice for many of them. I want to thank these users for their support through the years. We are posting notification today, providing a three -week period to export feeds to another service – more detail and instructions can be found on the Bloglines website.

Broadly, Ask’s goal when we acquired Bloglines remains unchanged — to provide millions of people immediate access to the most relevant information wherever it exists. Whether or not you were faithful to Bloglines and that vision in 2005, I hope that you’ll stick around to check out how we’re evolving that proposition through a blend of technology and human insight with the new Q&A experience on Ask.com. We’re just getting started.


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Q&A Partner Platform: Answer Questions, Do Good.

Just over a month ago, Ask.com launched the beta of our new Q&A offering, combining search technology with human insight to find the best possible answers to users’ questions. Since then, we’ve been thinking a lot about how to grow our community, motivate our users and ensure the best quality answers possible.

Today’s release of the Q&A Partner Platform is part of Ask.com’s multi-pronged approach to address some of these points, enabling us to build our Q&A community while giving back at the same time. The platform includes a variety of features – from membership badges to contribution progress meters — to make it easy and fun for Ask.com community members to support causes they’re passionate about, simply by answering questions that are routed to them.

“Answers for the Cure” is the first program powered by our platform, and we’re excited to team up with launch partner Susan G. Komen for the Cure to make this happen. Once users register, Ask.com will donate ten cents to Komen for every question answered.  As we continue to roll out our partner strategy, stay tuned for more charitable organizations in the future.

Big thanks to our product and engineering teams, as well as our launch partner Komen for all the work in making today’s launch a success. Please register now and help us make a difference today!

Penny Yao, Senior Product Manager & Kiran Yellanki, Software Engineer

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