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Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

Looking Up Vertical Search Lines

Vertical search refers to search engines designed to return results from very narrow or specific information or business sectors. Search tools that focus on a tight regime of information have existed for years. There are plenty of examples that already exist such as the highly successful book-search engine,, or the various job and career search engines like Name a business sector and you can likely find a search tool designed specifically for that sector. Vertical search is not a new idea however branding it as an essential type of search engine is. To quote the respected blogger, Om Malik , “You can’t go two steps on Sand Hill Road , the epicenter of venture capital without some money man espousing the virtues of vertical search.” Read more…

Ask Jeeves has been sold to Internet media conglomerate InterActiveCorp (IAC) for nearly $2-billion. Rumours about the sale, which started circulating early Sunday with a short story in the Wall St. Journal, were confirmed this morning by both IAC and Ask Jeeves. The transaction, which is worth $1.85-billion in stocks, represents the largest search related sale in the past two years.

Ask Jeeves has had a strange history. Starting as a natural language search engine that attempted to match specific questions with precise answers, they quickly moved to being a keyword-triggered search engine. Their famous mascot, Jeeves the Butler has served the firm for most of its life, with a brief retirement four years ago, and is one of the annual attendees (in hot-air balloon format) in New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Jeeves stands in front of Teoma, the brains behind Ask Jeeves. Generally regarded as one of the best algorithmic search tools available, Teoma (which is owned by Ask Jeeves) provides the search results displayed by Ask Jeeves. If it wasn’t for Google’s hold on name-brand popularity, Teoma might well have emerged as the #1 search engine. Ask.Com has been rumoured to be working on a paid-performance search tool to rival Yahoo and Google. The purchase also includes Ask Jeeves brand properties, Excite,, and iWon.Com.

IAC owns a number of Internet businesses including the popular online travel business Expedia, which it plans to spin off sometime this year. It also owns the Home Shopping Network,, Citysearch Web Directory, Ticketmaster, and the online mortgage provider LendingTree. The acquisition of Ask Jeeves gives IAC an entry into the rapidly growing search engine market with ownership of the world’s fourth most popular search service.

Earlier this month, IAC indicated it would purchase Cornerstone Brands, a massive Internet and catalogue retailer for a rumoured $720-million. Ownership of Cornerstone would give IAC further entry into the consumer retail market with a wider variety of products and services.

The purchases of Ask Jeeves and Cornerstone Brands, combined with IAC’s already heavy ownership of several sector-specific search services raises concerns that Ask Jeeves will be transformed into a vehicle for IAC vertical content, to the exclusion of other search options. From a business perspective, it would make sense for travel searches to return Expedia-generated results. Ask Jeeves CEO, Steve Berkowitz commented that the merger will permit users to “search, find and complete a task all within the boundaries of one company.” From a search perspective however, such a move would likely backfire as it did for Lycos two years ago.

Investors welcomed the purchase, with Ask Jeeves shares climbing 14% at the opening of trading today. Increased confidence in Ask Jeeves might be attributed to other moves IAC and its CEO, Barry Diller have made lately. Diller has long been known as an entrepreneur willing to spend large sums of money to buy big-ticket websites selling directly to the consumer. His strategy appears to be working. Last month, IAC announced sales of $6.2-billion across its stable of websites in 2004, a 15% increase over 2003 sales. This morning, IAC also announced the opening of a gift-recommendation search engine as a competitor to Amazon called

By combining its various services under the same URL, “Ask Jeeves”, IAC is betting online consumers will naturally migrate to the place that offers everything, “…within the boundaries of one company.” It currently owns many of the Internet’s most active web properties, some of which have been operating since before the tech-crash five years ago. They are most certainly anticipating a migration of search users towards sector-specific “vertical” search tools such as, Hotels.Com and whatever comes from their pending purchase of Cornerstone. Ask Jeeves and IAC had already jointly entered the local-search market with IAC’s Citysearch powering Ask Jeeves’ local search option.

Search engine watch has printed December 2004 stats from comScore Media Metrix detailing the market share of the major search engines going into the new year.

Google continues to dominate, generating 48% of all search results either directly or by providing results to smaller search firms such as the Excite Network. Yahoo follows a distant second with 32%. The pre-proprietary MSN came in third with 16% with Ask following fourth at 2%. Read more…

The search engine marketplace underwent a number of changes in 2004 with the number of independent sources nearly tripling by year’s end. Twelve months ago, Google was the dominant search tool feeding information to almost every other popular search engine in one way or another, including its biggest rivals Yahoo and MSN. Going into 2005, Google still dominates the search engine market but the world’s most popular search tool has lost a great deal of ground to its former bedfellows. Yahoo introduced its own algorithmic search engine early last spring followed by MSN’s beta release of their own search tool in the autumn. Over the span of one year, Google’s control of organic results dropped from approximately 76% to the 45% share it owns today. Read more…

Fast Search and Transfer of Norway has won a very large contract from AOL to develop a search platform based on its FAST enterprise search technology across various applications in the AOL network.

Owned by media giant Time Warner, AOL has spent the last year trying to re-enter the search engine market as a relevant player. Coupled with this announcement, AOL also entered into an agreement with Pure Networks to develop home networking tools for AOL subscribers with broadband access.

In an interview with WebProNews, AOL Executive Director of Digital Services, David Park said, “Making the AOL service go to work for our members no matter how they access it is pivotal and we chose to work with Pure Networks because we share a common vision of making the AOL ‘digital home’ easy-to-use and manage. Even with home networking on the rise, the technology can be complex and difficult to manage. With AOL Network Magic, we will deliver a product that is simple, intuitive and helps maximize the value of a home network.”

As more information and entertainment options move to the digital world, home networking is going to be one of the major trends in the coming years.

Thursday, August 12th, 2004

Cuban's Ice Rocket

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is taking on a new challenge, Google. Last week, Cuban introduced ICE ROCKET, a new search tool that mixes algorithmic and meta search to produce very relevant results. Long-term Internet users will remember Cuban’s last challenge, Broadcast.Com, now the largest streaming broadcaster on the web. There are many features to IceRocket including thumbnail views of the page referenced in search engine results.

A new search engine focusing on business and industry was released earlier this week. Find.Com is a very interesting tool that seems to combine the “clustering” format of Vivisimo with the variety of a meta-crawler search tool. Owned by Empire Media of New York NY, Find.Com works with search-technology developer TripleHop Technology’s enterprise search software, MatchPoint. Here is the explanation of the software and how the search tool works, copied directly from their About page: Read more…

If you are looking to spend some of your advertising dollars on Pay Per Click (PPC), but don’t care for the high prices of Google and Overture, you may want to take a look at some of the other PPC engines out there.

Many PPC Engines charge set up fees and have minimum click through rates of 5 and 10 cents, along with minimum monthly spends. For a small business on a limited budget testing the PPC waters, this may prove to be rather expensive. goClick offers no set up fees or minimum monthly spend, and click rates as low as a cent. Read more…

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

StepForth, (working quietly behind the scenes) is proud to be a part of the team that is introducing the world’s first accessible search engine for people with disabilities, YouSearched.Com. The search tool was developed by UK based philanthropist and entrepreneur Khalid Karrar, with technical assistance provided by StepForth CEO, Ross Dunn. Read more…

This is becoming awfully familiar; once again AskJeeves has shown itself to be in a very reliable and powerful financial position! Thanks to the latest IPO rumors at Google, AskJeeves stock actually doubled since the first of March. The reason? Approximately 70% of AskJeeves profits come from Google via sponsored (adwords) listings showing up in various AskJeeves properties. With Google showing so much potential in the coming IPO, investors are betting that AskJeeves will reap the rewards of higher sponsorship payout’s.

Although not without risks, this position is a beautiful one where AskJeeves can selectively compete with Google (via their own algorithmic spider) while reaping the rewards of its competitor’s growth.