ask 15Longtime question-and-answer website turned 15 years old today, and it celebrated with a blog post and a video that looks back at the company’s history (embedded below).

Some of this, of course, is just the usual “happy birthday, go us!” marketing fluff, but if nothing else, it’s a reminder that (formerly known as Ask Jeeves) is still around and developing new products. And the video is fun because it includes the perspective of the numerous CEOs that has had in its 15-year-history.

One of the questions that each CEO addresses is the biggest mistake the company made during those 15 years. Perhaps the subtext of that question is that even though the company is still around, is still publicly traded, and still has a large audience, it may seem like a bit of an also-ran compared to its search competitors, especially Google. So what happened? The word that comes up in multiple answers is “focus” — namely, the idea that lost focus after it went public and tried to compete with Google with advertising.

“We thought that the way to solve the search marketshare problem that we were having in order to gain marketshare was to do more marketing,” said current CEO Doug Leeds in the video. “And it turned out marketing really isn’t the issue. We have 90 million users every month. People know who we are.”

He added, “We need to do and focus on what we do best, which is answer questions and innovate on products.”

Leeds elaborates on this on his blog post:

During the next few years, Ask will increasingly be able to deliver answers and information based on what you tell us about who you are, where you are and what you’re doing. Factoring in this kind of context will mean things like:

— The ability to control the social graph around your Q&A behavior, such as routing and filtering questions and answers based on people you know and your relationships with them.

— Asking questions about a specific location, browsing questions and answers from people nearby, directing specific questions to people near you or people who visit the places you frequent most.

Ask is also holding a marketing campaign on Twitter where people post about what they’ve been up to for the last 15 years with the hashtag #mylast15.

Oh, and the company also celebrated by sending cupcakes to a number of tech publications, including VentureBeat. So a second blog post features a photo of our chief technology officer Christopher Peri stuffing his face. turns 15 from askdotcom on Vimeo.


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