Yet more search engine news: Online search site Ask.com is laying off 40 people and running up the white flag in its quest to challenge Google for market share. They've decided to concentrate on their core users, who they have identified as women in their late thirties in the Midwest and Southeastern states, according to their new chief executive Jim Safka.
Safka said it could take a few more months before the company articulates how the new view of its business will affect actual products, but its study of users already pointed to some important differentiating factors.
In terms of habits, Ask.com found that its users are three times more likely to conduct their search in the form of a complete question, such as "How do I cure a headache?", rather than focus on keywords alone.
Categories such as health, entertainment and reference information are among the strongest.
"You start to see a more human and emotional side to Ask because it's an emotional category," Safka said. "You can contrast that with our competitors. By definition they want to be robotic."
Ask.com has 45 million visitors a month. That's a plenty big niche to serve. I humbly suggest that every search query return at least one entry about buying shoes. Don't ask, just do it.