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Ask Jeeves Drops Butler as Part of Rebranding Strategy

By Jay Lyman
Feb 27, 2006 1:16 PM PT

The Internet search player formerly known as Ask Jeeves has decided that the butler just didn't do it, announcing today that it will drop "Jeeves" from its name in a massive rebranding effort where it will become, simply, Ask.com.

Ask Jeeves Drops Butler as Part of Rebranding Strategy

Ask.com said the butler became outdated when Internet searchers started undertaking "more sophisticated searches," including informational, navigational and transactional searches. Aside from the name, the actual Ask search engine will become the primary focus of the company's improvement effort, in a bid to make it a popular choice for a variety of Internet search functions, the company said.

Although Jeeves had earned the affection of some loyal fans, the character and strategy may not have been the right fit for today's dead-serious business of Internet search and a competitive market that includes Google, MSN and Yahoo.

"It's possible the utility of a butler and spokesman has run its course. The Internet is a more serious place now," Basex CEO and Chief Analyst Jonathan Spira told TechNewsWorld. "They can be slightly irreverent and humorous, or they can be serious; they're going the serious route."

Butler Gets Bumped

Ask.com indicated that its new, highly focused strategy revolves around the very process of Internet search.

"Today, as Ask.com, we are singularly focused on helping users find what they need through the complicated, exciting, ever-changing Web," the company said in a statement. "No matter what the search, Ask.com is committed to meeting the search challenge."

Ask indicated it would be squarely focused on the algorithms behind its search and speeding results for users. The Teoma search technology acquired by the company in 2001 has served as the heart of Ask Jeeves' functionality during the last few years and has helped fuel the company's resurgence. Now,the Teoma algorithm will be re-named as "ExpertRank," Ask.com said.

Search Gets Serious

Despite its past struggles with strategy and typical fourth-place position among U.S. search providers, the move is likely to be a good one for Ask, Basex's Spira indicated.

"Time will tell whether the repositioning will make them a more serious contender in search," he said. "It looks like an appropriate move for them. Ask.com is a logical place to get questions answered."

It's the right time for Jeeves to go. The butler was part of the dot-com era and never really caught on, IDC analyst Sue Feldman told TechNewsWorld.

"People don't know what a butler is for," she said. "Different time, different strategy."

Understanding Ask

Feldman credited Ask.com for its new approach as well as its understanding of users' needs.

"They were one of the early ones, and one of the first to realize that the meaning of language is important," she said.

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