Adieu Jeeves

Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch writes up a bit of the history of Ask Jeeves now that the butler’s retirement is here. This is something that has been well over a year in coming. The question now is whether jettisoning the Jeeves part of the brand will help the engine gain share. Ask has been in the fourth or fifth position in terms of search market share, depending on whose numbers you consult.

One of the motivations behind IAC’s acquisition of Ask was that it was to be the glue in the IAC system that knit together the disparate brands into a network of sorts. That network or more coherent whole has yet to materialize, though an Ask search box has been added to many IAC properties (see, e.g., RealEstate.com).

IAC-owned Citysearch provides the content for the Ask local product. The city guide has historically had a very strong brand in the local space (mostly in the A&E category), though it is somewhat weaker today in my view. However, over time, I could see the Ask brand taking over and being a broader, more effective starting point for local search at IAC.

One of the things that was nice about Ask Jeeves was that it had personality, which probably was a detriment in certain quarters. But at least it was a differentiator. While Ask owns top-tier search engine Teoma, great search results aren’t enough at this point. The challenge now will be how to make the experience at Ask.com different and compelling enough to grab share from its larger competitors.

I think that the answer lies in some mix of unstructured and structured data (especially in local). For example, if About.com hadn’t already been aquired by The N.Y. Times, it would have been a good property for Barry Diller to buy and fold into Ask results.

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