A Thinner, More Local, and Personalized Jeeves Debuts

  |  September 21, 2004   |  Comments

The search company works to improve its image and increase the volume of searches on its sites.

Ask Jeeves is expected to unveil personalization features, local search capabilities on Tuesday, plus an upgrade to its Teoma search technology and a new, thinner butler mascot.

The company also said it plans to release a desktop search tool in the fourth quarter. The moves are all designed to drive awareness and increase search volume on the Ask Jeeves site, which generates revenue primarily through the display of Google’s AdWords.

"The launch immediately delivers a better experience for our users in several important areas and lays the groundwork for us to fulfill our vision for search in new ways," said Jim Lanzone, senior vice president of search properties at Ask Jeeves.

Amidst the flurry of announcements, the most dramatic is the introduction of "MyJeeves," a personalized section of the site in which users can save search results, put these saved results into categories, make notes on saved URLs, and email those results to friends. That functionality is available whether or not users register and log in, but those who do log in get more features: a saved search history, ability to access the personalized area from any computer, and additional storage.

The search history feature is similar to what Amazon.com offers on its new A9.com search engine, while the ability to save searches is akin to what’s offered by companies like Furl or Backflip.

"The user creates their own personal Web index," said Lanzone, explaining users’ notes about pages become metadata that help make searches on the "MyJeeves" area more relevant.

Ask Jeeves is also debuting new local search features, with content gathered through partnerships with Citysearch and Topix.net. The company had already offered local content like maps, weather, driving directions, and movies. Now, users searching for things like "pizza in Chicago" will get listings for local businesses through Citysearch. Topix.net, which gathers content from 7,000 sources, will power a local news product in the News channel of Ask.com.

Powering all these search results is a new 3.0 version of Teoma search technology, the company said. Ask Jeeves says it’s improved the relevance of its algorithm, expanded its index to encompass 2 billion documents, and has begun crawling sites more often -- with special attention to frequently updated sites such as news sites. The company says it can also now crawl Flash and PDF files. Fourth-quarter additions will include cached versions of popular sites, related search technology and a desktop search tool. Desktop search has become one of the hotter areas of the search market.

Ask Jeeves intends to personify all these changes with the introduction of a new, thinner, more confident-looking butler mascot. Since September 14, the company has run a publicity stunt on its site featuring a silhouette of the butler that asks "Where’s Jeeves?" The image links to a Web page upon which Jeeves explains he’s embarked on a "secret mission" and "worldwide quest" to strengthen and improve Ask.com. On Tuesday, he will return, having lost his double chin, changed into a more modern-looking suit, and adopted a more confident posture.

"We are going to be essentially starting a broad campaign around checking out the new Jeeves," said Scott Garell, executive vice president and general manager of U.S. sites at Ask Jeeves. "We are world class. We’re taking the butler through an extreme makeover to be reflective of that."

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Pamela Parker

Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

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