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It seems that the Ask empire has been quietly innovating while the search engine world focused on the ever public battle between the top 3 search properties. Recently Ask launched “Smart Search” which VP Jim Lanzone noted as “more of an ideology than a brand name”. Read more…

The Christmas/New Year holiday season is a great time to break bad habits picked up over the years. One habit I will be trying to shake this season is the habit of defaulting to Google each time I do a search. For me, it is a terrible but very real habit to automatically move to the address bar and type www.google.com when I need instant information. With the growing number of off-base results we’ve seen at Google over the past few months, I constantly wonder why I fall creature to such a habit, especially as I know there are better options out there. Read more…

Happy Thanksgiving to our friends in the United States. American Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the end of the previous year and the start of the holiday season. It is the perfect time to kick back, visit family and friends and reminisce about the year gone past. It is also a great time to look forward to the coming year and have a little fun. That’s what our staff wanted to do today so here is our predictions for the State of Search, 2004.

* Google will issue an IPO in March (odds = 99%) via the Dutch Auction format. (odds = 50%) Google will make billions on the IPO and will purchase the financially strapped Calgary Flames Hockey club, move them to the Silicone Valley and rename them the Silicone Flameouts. (odds = 5%)

* We will see a continuance of large mergers, takeovers and buyouts until the end of the first quarter of 2004. More of the smaller players will be absorbed by the larger ones including at least a portion of ASK.Com. (odds = 60%). Jeeves himself will be found drunk in an alley behind the Stardust Lounge on Rodeo Dr. slumped over his friend, that other unemployed mascot from Pets.Com (odds = 5%)

* Yahoo will become the dominant search service in China (odds = 85%) and will become known as the “Portal to the World’s Largest Marketplace” (odds = 65%)

* Terra Lycos will surprise the search world with successful innovations and services. (odds = 99%) Furthermore, Lycos will become one of the top international search tools with a strong focus on European and Spanish Language search technologies. (odds = 55%)

* Contextual Advertising opportunities will expand, allowing more opportunities for the advertiser to become the advertising medium for other ads. (odds = 85%)

* Asian language SEOs will be a driving force of the SEO industry as the focus of the international economy continues to move from North America to Asia. (odds = 75%)

* The Toronto Maple Leafs will finally win the Stanley Cup. (odds = .05%)

* Google will be officially labeled a weapon of mass destruction based on the recent Florida update. (odds = 99%)

* Non-Spammy results will be found at Google very soon. (odds = 10%)

* Every major search engine will introduce their own tool-bars. (odds = 90%)

* MSN will make a major purchase, possibly ASK.Com’s TEOMA (odds = 50%)

* StepForth Placement will expand to double it’s current size and staff (odds = 80%+)

* StepForth Placement will add a new division (details pending, odds = 100%)

What will Microsoft do to increase its presence in the search engine industry? For a long time MSN has barely been a going concern in the search engine industry, but now with Google whispering about a ’04 IPO and Yahoo! buying Overture and Inktomi, there doesn’t seem to be many options left for the software giant. Here is some insight from MSN product manager Lisa Gurry:

“Lisa Gurry says the company plans to move aggressively to develop its in-house search expertise while continuing to rely on Yahoo as a supplier. ‘We will make the right investments to stay competitive in this space,’ says Gurry.” (USA Today)

Does “make the right investments” highlight a potential buyout of a known search service? This target has long been debated but the field of potential targets have narrowed considerably if we rule out a major buy of Google or Yahoo! by Microsoft.

“For the record, Gurry says Microsoft is not considering buying Yahoo or Google ‘at this time.’”

Who does that leave? Our money is on an acquisition of Teoma/AskJeeves. Teoma is really the only search engine that I can think of which has demonstrated the potential to innovate and maintain the clean search image that Google so quickly rose from. I suppose, however, that this prediction is a no-brainer since there is really very few to pick from.

Till our next news.
- Ross Dunn