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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 September, 2004, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Ask Jeeves bets on smart search
Screengrab of Ask Jeeves homepage, Ask
Jeeves the butler is a bit slimmer now
Search engine site Ask Jeeves has overhauled its service and mascot.

It has introduced a MyJeeves feature that lets users save search results, make notes about them and manage them like more familiar browser bookmarks.

The makeover has extended to the site's iconic butler who, in his new incarnation, has lost weight and had a slight costume change.

Search is becoming increasingly competitive, with rivals trying to outdo each other in what they offer.

Save and search

The MyJeeves feature, accessible from the Ask.com site, lets people keep a record of the searches they have done via the search engine.

It allows users to put search results into folders and lets them add their own notes.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, AP
Amazon has updated its A9 search site too
People who sign up for the system get more storage space to keep their histories and the ability to search their searches.

In the closing quarter of the year, Ask Jeeves is expected to launch personal search software that returns results from a users home PC as well as the web.

In mid-summer, Ask bought desktop search firm Tukaroo to get hold of technology to power the personal search system.

Searching through all the files, images, music and movies we keep on our home computers is rapidly becoming the new frontier for many search firms.

Google is known to be working on personal search software, codenamed Puffin, and Microsoft is expected to put a similar system in to the next release of Windows due in late 2006.

Many smaller, smarter search firms, such as Blinkx, Copernic and others, are concentrating on personal search too.

Many industry watchers have realised that search is key to almost everything that people do with a computer for this reason firms are keen to get consumers committed to their search system.

Pre-prepared results

Ask is also making an attempt to distinguish itself from other search engines by expanding its smart search system.

This is available on both the UK and US Ask sites and means that, for certain types of queries, it returns a small number of pre-selected results instead of a long list of websites.

For instance, one smart search category is all about famous people. Typing in the name of a celebrity returns a small biography and links to encyclopaedia entries about that person.

Other smart search categories include products, shares and news and weather.

Below the pre-prepared results will be all the usual results from the web.

"Searching is going to be about more than just 10 blue links," said Tony Macklin, director of product at Ask UK.

"It's going to be about providing different types of information at different times."

Ask Jeeves said it currently handles more than 40m search queries per month.

In letting people search through their own searches, Ask is following the lead of online retailer Amazon.

Earlier this month Amazon overhaul its A9 search site to add more features.

A9 returns searches in different categories that users can get at by using buttons on the sites margins. Users can also save and annotate searches as well as look through all the things they have searched for in the past.

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