Deals

Search engine Ask.com has no value within IAC, says Barry Diller — and maybe he doesn't, either

Search engine Ask.com, an early competitor of Google’s that has since faded slightly into obscurity, doesn’t have any value in the framework of its parent company InterActiveCorp, according to IAC CEO Barry Diller. He made the comments today at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.

Ask.com might possess some value if it were spun off into a standalone company outside of IAC, but it hasn’t gained any significant ground in the search engine market since it was acquired five years ago, Diller said.

“I don’t think anybody ascribes any meaningful value to Ask.com when compared to a site like Vimeo which has huge potential,” he said. Vimeo is an online-video site within IAC’s portfolio.

The admission calls into question Diller’s skills as a media dealmaker. Historically, he has made his name buying and selling properties, everything from cable channels to e-commerce sites. Over time, his company has repeatedly changed its name and focus. But after spinning off many of its businesses in 2007, a smaller IAC has concentrated on online media and advertising properties.

Ask.com still accounts for 3.8 percent of all searches on the Internet, according to data from comScore — but that’s compared to Google’s colossal 65 percent market share and Yahoo’s 17 percent market share. Data from comScore several years ago also suggests Ask.com has been losing momentum. It powered 4.5 percent of all searches on the Internet in August 2007.

“We didn’t gain share, and I don’t think we’re going to gain share,” Diller said. “We’ve held it, which is a bit of a miracle, but that’s not what we intended when we picked it up five years ago.”

The Oakland, Calif.-based company was founded in 1996 and was a public company between 1999 and 2005, when IAC acquired the search engine. Ask.com was formerly AskJeeves.com before it decided to throw out the company’s mascot, a friendly looking butler named Jeeves, in 2006 and rebrand the website.

Largely as a result of IAC’s spinoffs, Diller is on the board of directors of five companies including IAC. He serves as the chairman of travel site Expedia, formerly owned by IAC. He announced today that he will resign as the chairman of live event hosting company Live Nation’s board of directors by the end of the year, which merged with former IAC property Ticketmaster earlier this year.

Update: Diller has released a statement in response to the article, which an IAC spokesperson sent to VentureBeat via email.

“I did not say that Ask has no value inside of IAC, period. In response to a specific question, I said that many of our assets are not ‘valued’ in the stock, and Ask is one of them…I was asked specifically if Ask would be better off with us or another company or standing alone. In the context of that question, I said that since it wasn’t valued in IAC –  like so many of our businesses, because we have so many –  that it would only be ‘valued’ stand alone.”

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