Ask Jeeves has made three significant enhancements to its search engine with the aim of competing with larger search companies such as Google, Microsoft, America Online and Yahoo.
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User will not be able to store queries and results, add yellow-pages type local business listings to its local search functionality and enhance 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".
Each search result will have a "save" button, which, if clicked on, takes the user to his MyJeeves interface, where results can be stored, categoried 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 do not register can only access their MyJeeves page from one PC and can store fewer search results. "MyJeeves is a first step towards personalisation," Read said.
Meanwhile, Ask Jeeves' local search, which already features a variety of categories, such as weather, jobs, movies and maps, is getting expanded 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.
Ask Jeeves' news section will also get 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 improved the Teoma search technology which powers its search engine.
Teoma 3.0 includes 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 two 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% of all online searches among US users, followed by Yahoo with 30%, Microsoft with 15.4%, Time Warner, which includes AOL, with 15%, and in a distant fifth place Ask Jeeves with 1.9%, according to market researcher comScore Networks.
In terms of unique US search visitors, Google again led with a 42.2% share, followed by Yahoo with 38.8%, Microsoft's MSN with 31.8%, AOL's proprietary search with 22.5% and Ask Jeeves with 11.4%, according to comScore.
Juan Carlos Perez writes for IDG News Service