Poor Ask.com. Nobody seems to have noticed that the IAC-owned search engine already had several of the features that its bigger competitors rolled out to acclaim last week. So, in a blog post, Ask.com's vice president of technology tries to set the historical record straight. Keith Hogan first takes on Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which announced that it had boosted the sophistication of the "related search" suggestions that show up after a user makes a query. Hogan says that Ask.com has had that feature for "years." Next up: Microsoft's new "Instant answers" for Live Search. Hogan says Ask.com has been doing the same thing for "almost a decade." In case his readers have not visited Ask.com lately, Hogan posts some Ask.com screenshots as evidence.
There's a reason, of course, that Hogan has to go to such lengths to remind the world that Ask.com is not behind the times: Despite those once-avant-garde features, Ask.com hasn't been able to persuade users to make the switch from Google or Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) for that matter. Ask.com's market share continues to hover around 4 percent, according to comScore (NSDQ: SCOR). And in that, there's a lesson for other search engines, like Microsoft, that are set to announce new features: The search market is not fair. Google's dominance is so entrenched that even innovation by a competitor won't necessarily cut into its market share. And if it does, Google can always take the competitor's features and claim them as its own. Chances are Googleand not the competitorwill be heralded for being on the cutting edge.
By Joseph Tartakoff