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SES NY: Today Is Ask.com Day

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If Search Engine Strategies New York had been kicked off with a parade, that parade would most certainly have started with the mayor (in a bowler hat) giving Barry Diller the key to city and declaring today “Ask.com Day”.

Today is the day of the new Ask.com, with Jeeves dissapearing, and tonight gives us the big Jeeves retirement party.

I missed most of Barry Diller’s keynote (damn subway) but I did get to shake hands with him in an almost empty hallway as I waited for the post-keynote press conference, so I felt quite cool. you can see him in the picture, chatting away on stage with (I think) Danny Sullivan.

The post-keynote press session was not really a press conference, but just an opportunity for about eight members of the media to chat with about 15 people from Ask.com. In the room was new Ask’r, Gary Price, who I always enjoy speaking to, even if I haven’t seen him since the last SES NY. Gary divulged to me the top-secret details of Ask’s new satellite mind control network

No, I got to hear about Gary’s new job. Gary seems to have really lucked out, working at a place that sees his skills as bringing something seriously valuable, which is why they’re giving him freedom. Gary’s employment contract pretty much lets him do whatever the hell he wants outside of his job, so his ResourceShelf and other various sites remain nice and independent. Hell, they don’t even want him running around “evangelizing” and speaking at conferences for Ask. I’m jealous.

Gary’s got a great post this morning about the changes at Ask, so be sure to read that.

After Gary went off to hobnob with the large pile of minions sporting Ask.com badges (yes, it was a pile, and they were wrestling), I walked over to where Ask GM Jim Lanzone was fielding questions from vultures. I convinced Jim to speak to the reporters instead of the angry birds, and we were off.

But seriously, Jim was basically holding the post-keynote Q&A for whoever was there (since, as an Ask staffer told me, Barry Diller agreed to give only a single interview, which was where he was heading when he shook my hand).

Jim explained there are a lot of big plans for Bloglines, which makes sense, since it is a hugely popular service that can drive people to use the rest of the Ask products. He said they were looking to bring Bloglines information to the front page, like a sidebar on the left side, for those who wanted to use that. He said that they were in middle of building a new blog search product, “all based on Bloglines”.

Jim was asked about mobile search, and said that they are developing mobile search. He explained that one of the major problems with mobile search right now is that “Mobile search is very slow” right now, and that one of Ask’s biggest focuses in developing their mobile search product is ensuring that it renders very quickly on mobile devices.

He also discussed Ask’s advertising. They used to show as many as ten stacked ads above the fold, and now they show a maximum of three. In addition, he claimed that they were they only search engine to show editorial results above the ads (as in when they show Instant Answers above the ads, something Google certainly doesn’t do). A large portion of their ads are served by Google, although they sell their own ads.

Moving onto the Ask.com redesign, I asked why the new homepage and branding still looks very similar to the old one. Since the purpose of the rebranding is to make people note how much Ask has changed since the bubble days, I figured they would at least change the look, not just the name, but the new homepage has the same red, the same curves (although they’ve moved), and is instantly recognizable as the same website.

Jim explained that they didn’t want to abandon the whole branding. He said Ask’s homepage is more branded than other search engines. They don’t want to overdesign and put too many things in there, and he said, “Red is in our legacy”. Not exactly what I asked, I wanted to know about why the colors and look hadn’t changed, but, whatever.

I also noted that Bloglines looked very different from the rest of Ask’s properties, and wondered whether they would change it to match. Jim said that would not happen, that Bloglines would remain its own service. However, he volunteered that it is possible there “might be a third product that uses Bloglines” as its backbone, running as an Ask service. I found that very interesting.

His last question was where Jeeves wound up going, after the poll on his vacation website. He noted that while Jeeves was going to be at tonight’s party, the voters chose to send Captain Jeeves off on his boat.

I’d like to note that, knowing today was all about Jeeves, in tribute, I wore my “Bloglines purchased by AskJeeves” t-shirt underneath my regular shirt.

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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

Visit the InsideGoogle blog.

SES NY: Today Is Ask.com Day
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