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Google, Ask Rise In Market

By: David Utter

Everyone knows about Google's high-flying stock price and equally dominant search share, but Ask parent IAC/Interactive has been upwardly mobile as well.

Jobs Apologizes But Apple Probes ContinueWe saw a little hint of IAC's (IACI) good fortune with the latest search share numbers. Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT) fell off while Google (GOOG) and Ask saw increases.

Ask has been part of IAC since its acquisition in March 2005. IAC mated Ask with properties like Citysearch and TicketMaster, while programmers at Ask worked hard to integrate search technology from its Teoma purchase with Ask's engine.

Google has been powered by the work of its co-founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, in creating a search engine that has been relevant, or at least relevant enough, to deliver results quickly to a query. Other engines have been about the same on speed, but query relevance varies not just by engine, but by the perception of the searcher too.

'Relevant enough' has sufficed to give Google a 45 percent share in September for US searches by comScore's qSearch numbers. From there the share drops roughly by half, to Yahoo's 28 percent and Microsoft's 12 percent, and those percentages represent decreases from both companies' shares in August.

Ask ticked up to 5.8 percent from 5.5 in August. An incremental gain, but a gain nonetheless. Google and Ask moved up in search share, and they moved up on Wall Street. Yahoo and Microsoft have been flat or declining on both counts for the year.

Paul La Monica at CNNMoney said the Street likes IACI's top man, Barry Diller. His company is seen as an up and coming Internet play thanks to the improvements and marketing made with Ask.

"We're the little engine that could," Diller said last month in New York. "I never thought that success goes to the entrenched." Diller has a goal of 10 percent search market share for Ask.

The multitude of tweaks and feature releases have been focused on delivering a wealth of information at the Ask user's fingertips. Maybe that quality will be good enough to gain a little bit more on the other guys. Who knows, it could end up being sufficient to pass Microsoft with the right confluence of factors.

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