Ask Jeeves Inc. is actively looking at strengthening its flagship search engine Web site with features, services and technologies found elsewhere in its online network.
Ask Jeeves is taking inventory to determine which of its online offerings makes sense to replicate in its flagship Web search engine (http://www.ask.com), according to company executives.
The plan follows Ask Jeeves' purchase of Interactive Search Holdings, announced in March of this year and closed in May, which gave Ask Jeeves several Web properties, including Web portals Excite (www.excite.com), My Way (www.myway.com) and iWon (www.iwon.com).
"We own robust portal functionality and are actively exploring integration of those tools and features into the Ask Jeeves brand in ways that make sense," said Jim Lanzone, the company's senior vice president of search properties.
The process has already started. Ask Jeeves boosted its flagship search engine with a feature from My Way that lets users find show times at local movie theaters, said Daniel Read, vice president of product management.
"There will be a lot more examples of that," Read said. Online communications overall is an interesting area, and within it a likely possibility would be an Ask Jeeves-branded webmail service, Read said. iWon, My Way and Excite all offer webmail services.
While it mulls cross-pollination of services in its online network and explores possible synergies, Ask Jeeves for now remains committed to having a variety of distinct sites with their own identities and user experiences, Read said. This is different from the Web portal approach of rivals Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which have a full suite of mass-market online services, including search, under a single Web banner: www.yahoo.com and www.msn.com, respectively.
However, nothing is written in stone over at Ask Jeeves. "We have a multibrand strategy now, but the way people consume Internet services is always changing, so we don't discount any move," Read said.
One thing the company firmly believes in, however, is that stuffing its Ask Jeeves search engine indiscriminately with portal features would be counterproductive, Read said. "A key thing for a search engine is to keep it simple and not clutter it, because (clutter) turns off users," Read said.
Still, with its plan to selectively seed the Ask Jeeves search engine with complementary services and functionality drawn from its portals, the company seems to acknowledge that loyalty among search engine users is generally very thin. A consensus among industry observers is that providers of Web search services must complement them with other services that grab on to users more tightly.
A good example of a search provider that has been busy adding other online services is Google Inc., which is complementing its core search services with others such as its Gmail webmail service, its Picasa photo management and sharing service and its Blogger weblogging service.