Ask Jeeves revamps search and gets personal

Ask Jeeves has made three significant enhancements to its search engine, as the company continues to take aim at its much larger competitors in the search space: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

Ask Jeeves on Tuesday will trot out the capability for users to store queries and results; the addition of yellow-pages type local business listings to its local search functionality and an enhancement to the underlying algorithmic technology powering the search engine.

"This is an extensive upgrade to our search engine," said Daniel Read, Ask Jeeves' vice president of product management.

The company has named the new feature for storing queries and results MyJeeves and has designed it so that users can create what Read calls "your own personal Web." Starting Tuesday, each search result will have a "save" button, which, if clicked upon, takes the user to his MyJeeves interface, where results can be stored, categorized into folders, printed, annotated with the user's comments and shared via e-mail. In turn, users can search the content of their MyJeeves pages.

The service is free and available to all Ask Jeeves users without the need to register for it or download any software. However, those who choose to register, providing a password and an e-mail address, get some added benefits, such as more storage for archived results and the ability to access their MyJeeves page from any computer with an Internet connection. Those who don't register can only access their MyJeeves page from one PC and can store fewer search results. "MyJeeves is a first step towards personalization," Read said.

Meanwhile, Ask Jeeves' local search, which already features a variety of categories, such as weather, jobs, movies and maps, is getting expanded on Tuesday through a previously-announced partnership with IAC/InterActiveCorp's Citysearch to include local business listings, such as the ones commonly found in a phone book's yellow pages. In addition to the usual yellow pages information, some listings appear with reviews written by Citysearch users and editors, meant to provide more information to users about a particular business.

On a related local search enhancement, Ask Jeeves' news section is getting a local news boost through a partnership with Zandica's Topix.net, which aggregates articles from thousands of media outlets and whose results can be narrowed to specific geographical areas.

Finally, Ask Jeeves has done some work under the hood by improving the Teoma search technology that powers its search engine. Ask Jeeves is calling this upgrade Teoma 3.0 and its highlights include enhanced relevance for query results; an increased crawling frequency to refresh more often the index of general sites and news stories; and an expanded index that now has about 2 billion English-language Web documents, up from about 1.5 billion six months ago, Read said. The index is expected to grow to about 2.5 billion documents by the end of 2004.

Teoma 3.0 also now supports double-byte Asian languages and features a Japanese-language index, which currently has about 100 million Web documents. This is Ask Jeeves' first Teoma index in a language other than English.

Enhancements to Teoma 3.0 expected in the fourth quarter include a page cache feature and a related search feature. Another feature to be added to Teoma 3.0 is the ability for users to search only for Flash or PDF files.

Also in the fourth quarter, Ask Jeeves expects to come out with a product to let users search information stored in their PCs.

In February, Google controlled 34.7 percent of all online searches among U.S. users, followed by Yahoo with 30 percent, Microsoft with 15.4 percent, Time Warner, which includes AOL, with 15 percent, and in a distant fifth place Ask Jeeves with 1.9 percent, according to market researcher comScore Networks. In terms of unique U.S. search visitors, Google again led with a 42.2 percent share, followed by Yahoo with 38.8 percent, Microsoft's MSN with 31.8 percent, AOL's proprietary search with 22.5 percent and Ask Jeeves with 11.4 percent, according to comScore.

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