• United States
by Shelley Solheim

IAC’s Diller bids adieu to Ask Jeeves’ ‘fat butler’

Feb 27, 20063 mins
Enterprise Applications

Search engine has rebranded itself as, ditched its namesake butler icon and added several new search tools in an effort to woo more users, Barry Diller, chairman and CEO of Ask Jeeves’ parent company IAC/InterActiveCorp announced Monday.

“It needed not be any radical change, we just needed to drop some baggage,” Diller said in his keynote address Monday at the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo in New York.

In addition to losing what Diller referred to as the “fat butler,” streamlined its Web site with a new “non-cluttered” look and added a right-hand sidebar for searching different sources — such as images, weather, dictionaries and local sources — that officials say enables “search on speed dial.” also adds a new map search feature, with an AJAX-based user interface that enables drag-and-drop functionality. The map tool also adds such features as aerial images of locations and an option to get walking directions in addition to driving directions.

Also among the new search tools is a shortcut to searching for encyclopedia sources on the Web, such as Wikipedia.

“It doesn’t matter whether we have 6 or 2% market share, what matters is whether we’re relevant,” Diller said. “One thing about us is that while others have been going to all sorts of other things, what we’ve concentrated on is everyday search. We don’t think the experience is as satisfying as it can be.”

But Diller acknowledged that the search company is facing a difficult task in getting users to change their habits. According to the latest data compiled by comScore Networks, Ask Jeeves only gets about 6.5% of total search queries. Google was the most used search engine in the United States in November, followed by Yahoo, Microsoft’s MSN and AOL.

“Legacy is a tough thing, habit pulls. I don’t think any of this stuff happens overnight, this is not the way it works,” Diller said. “We’ve really said we don’t expect great earnings to come from Ask for a long time, what we want to do is invest in real terms in this area that we think is at its very beginning.”

Diller said the company’s biggest challenge is overcoming public perception.

“The big issue with us is some of our legacy. People think of us as a tool where you have to ask a question with a question mark at the end of it and you get a response. What we have to confront first is to tell them what we’re doing,” he said.

Diller also sought to dissuade concerns that would give preferential treatment to some of IAC’s other online properties, which includes, and

“When it advantages our audience, we’ll give it to them. It will be there on par, anything else would be foolish,” he said.

As for the future of search, Diller said as consumer devices mature the ways in which we access information will become less of an issue.

“We’re about to embark on an age where we’re not going to be bandwidth- or distribution-constrained,” Diller said. “All of those things happen when there are consumer products that enable them. It’s going to happen soon, but we’re not there yet. It’s still two or three years out.”