Search technology prominence grows

Jim Lanzone cites search technology's importance in everyday life and talks about upcoming developments and Google

Search technology is becoming a central tool in everyday life, said Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone at the Search Engine Strategies 2007 conference in San Jose, California on Tuesday.

Once limited to giving out just a bunch of links, search has expanded to offer more context, options, and tools, Lanzone said.

"For the next 10 years, [search is] going to be the way that you navigate the world of information and media," Lanzone said.

Ask.com has focused on providing additional context in search, Lanzone said. He cited the company's Ask3D search technology, which provides three dimensions of searching: Query expression, investigating results, and digging deep into content.

"We'll keep putting the focus on the user and kind of that next generation of search," Lanzone said.

There had been predictions that search would go away when people settled on their favorite 30 Web sites, Lanzone said. "What they didn't predict was that search would be this on-demand tool" with people making online reservations with it and handling other tasks, he said.

Ask's launch of Ask3D was spun in the media as an attempt to topple Google, Lanzone said. But he denied that this was the intent. Ask, in fact, partners with Google. Under an agreement between the two firms, Google helps to serve Ask ads, an Ask representative later explained.

"We are, at this point, Google's largest global partner," said Lanzone. But a search advertiser might want to go with the Ask ad network because of page placement advantages and direct access to data, he said.

In an apparent reference to Google's dalliances into the online application space, Lanzone stressed Ask is not getting involved in providing office products or e-mail. "We're focused squarely on search, and I think we can do a better job at it," Lanzone said .

Ask also has partners like Fandango, which provides links to buy movie tickets online. Ask is a brand used by 50 million people in the United States, according to Lanzone.

Lanzone, however, said too much emphasis has been put on market share. "Frankly, with what comScore came out [with] yesterday, the whole concept of market share kind of got turned on its head," he said.

While Lanzone did not provide details on what comScore launched, he presumably was referring to comScore qSearch 2.0, which expands search measurement to encompass other searches occurring on the Internet. It was announced Monday.

Addressing the issue of privacy, Lanzone cited the launch of AskEraser. Users can decide not to have their searches tracked and the information goes away, he said. For personalization capabilities, users must opt in, said Lanzone.

Also noted were Ask's planned Edison algorithm for core search as well as Ask's emphasis on search capabilities from mobile devices. For example, a user can type in "pizza near me" from their phone to find a local pizza restaurant. "That's something that mobile enabled us to do," Lanzone said.

"How do we bring the Web to mobile is a lot of what we're focused on," he Lanzone.

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