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Ask: A brief history of the Ask search engine

Ask - a brief history of the Ask search engine

The Ask search engine was previously known as Ask Jeeves until its relaunch in February 2006, when the Jeeves name and 'butler' image was dropped.

The original Ask Jeeves search tool was developed in 1996 by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen in Berkeley, California. It launched in April 1997 with the concept that users could search in plain English, so that it became a popular consumer tool that appealed to users who were not familiar with searching the web.

Ask Jeeves had always been amongst the most popular search engines and, now as just Ask, continues to fight for market share against the 'big 3' of Google, MSN Search and Yahoo! However, the results presented by Ask Jeeves have varied in quality over time. Initially it presented a combination of results from a human-edited list of prominent sites, paid listings and search results pulled from a combination of search partner sites. In recent years Ask Jeeves had developed its own search technology, following their acquisition of Direct Hit in January 2000 and then Teoma at the end of 2001.

By owning some advanced search technology, Ask has now developed a more impressive search engine that presents a stronger set of search options and results, although it does currently place a lot of emphasis on sponsored listings as well (from Google AdWords). However, according to Ask, the introduction of the Teoma powered search results after 2001 led to a 25% increase in user satisfaction and the company has built on this to develop more search functionality, including an image search engine and desktop search tool.

Ask / Ask Jeeves has seen strong financial growth in recent years which has funded its acquisition of other companies, including the owner of websites such as Excite and iWon. As noted above, February 2006 marked the point where Ask Jeeves decided to drop their long-established branding of 'Jeeves the butler' in order to relaunch the search engine as a more focused search experience along the lines of Google. Time will tell if this is the correct strategy and leads to a growth in their share of the search market.

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