Internet browser service Ask Jeeves has enhanced its search engine to give users the ability to preview images of websites listed in search results, a feature the company said will make it easier and faster for users to find the information they are looking for.
It has also extended its Smart Search capability, which is designed to intuitively determine what information users are looking for and package data and relevant links into a rectangular box placed above the conventional list of websites.
For example, if a user enters the term "Troy" into the main search page, Ask Jeeves returns a Smart Search box with information about the recently released movie, "Troy".
Information packaged into the box includes the year of release, the US rating and the percentage of favourable reviews it has received; links to external websites that offer reviews, a plot synopsis and a trailer. The box also has a section for a user to enter a postcode to find out local showing times.
Ask Jeeves needs to let users know as it significantly improves its functionality compared with four or five years ago, when it disappointed many users by providing irrelevant results, said Gary Price, a librarian and editor of ResourceShelf.com, an online newsletter devoted to internet search.
"This is not the same old Ask Jeeves. Its product is of much higher quality than back in 1999 and 2000, but they must convince people of this," Price said.
The preview-image feature, called Binoculars, will pop up a snapshot of a listed page when the user places the cursor over a Binoculars icon included with a query result, said Jim Lanzone, Ask Jeeves' senior vice-president of search properties. The user may then find out if a web page is offline or created by an amateur, saving them a wasted visit to a page, he said.
The Smart Search capability, based on a combination of the company's Teoma search, natural language and structured-data search technologies, is being extended with new features.
The Smart Search technology works very well for certain types of queries, Price said. "It's a good idea to make search engines be more "answer engines", because they reduce the time and aggravation for users and get them quality answers," he added.
Juan Carlos Perez writes for IDG News Service