Ask showed so much promise not so long ago. But they seem intent on making themselves in the image of Google, which is not a winning strategy. Yahoo and MSN have the advantage of diversified business, and can link in with other online endeavors. Search is just one piece of the puzzle for them.
Ask needs to offer something that Google doesn't.
Even their latest advertising pitch - "the algorithm" - is trying to get kudos for exactly the thing that propeled Google to fame. Google, not Ask, is famous for "the algorithm" (the Pagerank algorithm). This is a loser.
I admire them for being able to keep up with Google the the extent that they do. They have good results and nice tools, but while they just run around in the shadow of the big G, they will never get noticed.
Differentiation is key.
Ask seems to not realize that.