Ask Jeeves, Inc., the company known for its dapper butler mascot, has been working hard to improve the user experience on its flagship search engine, Ask Jeeves (http://www.ask.com)—it has just given the butler a makeover as well. The company says that Ask Jeeves is now more personal, more local, and more relevant, and the sleeker, healthier-looking Jeeves personifies improvements to the site. The user interface is more crisp and professional, the underlying Teoma search engine has been upgraded to 3.0, local search options have been expanded, and a new MyJeeves service has been introduced.
MyJeeves lets users save search results by clicking on the "save" button next to each result. Users can then organize or group items into folders, add notes (up to 255 characters each), print them, share them via e-mail, and also search within the saved documents—creating, in effect, a "personal Web." One nifty aspect is that a user's personal notes become searchable metadata, thus improving relevance and recall.
"MyJeeves saves time and minimizes frustration: It eliminates the need to repeat searches and allows users to easily find things again," said Daniel Read, vice president of product management at Ask Jeeves. "Every Ask Jeeves user can immediately take advantage of MyJeeves to begin creating their own Personal Web. Users do not need to pay a fee, install any software application, select settings and preferences, or register for anything."
While not required, registration for MyJeeves provides additional advantages. Registered users can access MyJeeves from any Internet-enabled computer with a password and receive additional storage for their personal Web documents. Anyone using MyJeeves can save up to 1,000 items, while registered users are permitted an unlimited number of saves. Search histories and saved items can be cleared at any time.
MyJeeves is currently a beta release that, according to Read, will be tweaked and improved based on user feedback. While Read acknowledged that competitors are working to provide personalization features as well (such as the just-out-of-beta A9.com from Amazon), he stressed that Ask Jeeves is the first major search engine to offer significant personalization, integrated tightly with its own search technology, and not require registration.
Read also stressed the improvements to the local search capabilities on Ask Jeeves. Through a partnership with Citysearch announced in August, Ask Jeeves users now have access to local business listings and data, including more than 2 million editorial and user reviews and ratings. Collected over the last 8 years, Citysearch's data are seamlessly integrated with maps and driving directions. In addition to the business listings and ratings data provided by CitySearch, Ask Jeeves has now added a local news product powered by Topix.net.
"Local is about much more than business listings," said Read. "We've combined each of these components into a tightly integrated product that delivers a local offering that rivals any product in the market."
Read attributes a large part of the recent successes at Ask Jeeves to the unique relevancy capabilities of the Teoma search engine. The upgrade to Teoma 3.0 brings increased freshness, improved core relevancy, and an expanded index. Some of the improvements in Teoma are:
- Enhancements to the core algorithms, including increased ability to classify content in order to better assess authority.
- Daily crawls of popular, news, and other important sites and a newly designed architecture that will accelerate continued improvements in freshness.
- The Teoma index, which has surpassed 2 billion English-only Web documents and is expected to exceed 2.5 billion by year's end.
In addition, page caching of popular sites and multiple types of related searches will be introduced into Teoma in Q4 2004.
While the general media seems to focus on the big three in the search wars—Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft—interesting progress is being made by companies like Ask Jeeves, which has been busy with continuous enhancements and upgrades. Recently, it introduced its new preview tool, "Binoculars," and several additional Smart Search features. The company also syndicates its search technology and advertising products to a number of third-party Web sites, including portals, infomediaries, and content and destination Web sites.
In June 2004 the company acquired technology assets from Tukaroo, Inc., and said it intended to integrate Tukaroo's desktop search and file management software into its search services. Ask Jeeves has now confirmed that it expects to deliver a desktop search product to the market during Q4 2004.
"This 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—on the Web, on the desktop, and beyond," said Jim Lanzone, senior vice president of search properties.
Read added, "Our vision is more aggressive than you might imagine." He said that MyJeeves, which could become a hub or platform to plug in other resources, is part of a wider vision of personalization.
One final note: Ask Jeeves has teamed up with the American Red Cross to raise money for those affected by the hurricanes in the southeast United States. Ask Jeeves has just launched a special search site at http://www.redcross.ask.com. All profits generated from searches conducted on this site through Oct. 15 will go to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.