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Ask.com gives up on search

End of an era for Google competitor

Long the also-ran in the search market, Ask.com announced on Tuesday that it is getting out of the search business.

The California-based company is switching gears and will focus on building out its online question-and-answer service, where people take customers questions, said Doug Leeds, president of Ask.com, in a blog post.

The company will also be laying off 130 employees, most of whom are engineers, and closing offices in Edison, New Jersey and Hangzhou, China, said Valerie Combs, a spokeswoman for the company.

Ask.com will outsource its search technology, but Combs wouldn't say which company might take over that work for them.

"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," Leeds wrote. "Unfortunately, this absolute focus means that we need to stop investing in things outside of providing users with the best answers..."

The company has fallen behind in the increasingly competitive search arena. Just last month, online researcher comScore reported that Ask.com was in fourth place in the US search market behind third-place Microsoft Bing and second-place Yahoo. It's well behind the market leader Google.

According to comScore's numbers, Ask.com had 3.7% of the search market in September. Google had 66.1%.

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said he was not surprised to see Ask.com drop out of the search fray. "It's kind of a shame too because they had a nice brand and should have appealed well to older Internet users," he said.

"Their market share had dropped into the noise and I imagine there will be more people surprised that they are still around...," Enderle said. "The days of there being a lot of search engines are over for now."

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