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November 09, 2010

Ask.com Update

I wanted to share some difficult news made known to our employees today. Ask.com will close our offices in Edison, N.J. and Hangzhou, China effective over the next several months. This move was and is difficult, mostly due to the talent, hard work, perseverance and friendship that we have shared with the teams in these offices over many years, but we feel strongly that in the long run this is ultimately best for the Ask.com business and its users. 

I’ll crib this post a bit from my internal message this morning, and try to keep this as honest and open as possible. 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 importantly—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. 

Make no mistake that execution of our Q&A strategy still requires a great deal of technology investment and technical innovation, much of which is search-related, involving crawling and indexing the web’s breadth of questions and answers, and using search-based algorithms to route the right question to the best potential answerer.  Beyond this, our proprietary Answer Products will continue to be a key point of differentiation for us in the Q&A space. We will continue to make the technology investments necessary across all of these fronts to develop the very best Q&A experience on the Web.

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.

These reasons don’t make it any easier to say goodbye to many of our colleagues in Edison and Hangzhou, and we are making it a priority to do as much as we possibly can for every person affected by this, including comprehensive severance packages, end of year bonuses and job placement services. Where we can, we will also offer a number of people the opportunity to relocate to our Bay Area offices, which will grow incrementally so that we can continue building, enhancing and delivering on our Q&A strategy and product lines. 

I want to close by thanking  and recognizing the incredible employees that have helped Ask become what it is today, and what we hope it will be in the future. Your contributions will long be remembered and valued.


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