Friday, May 27, 2005

New Ask Jeeves features examined

Ask Jeeves continues to solidify its stance as a legitimate contender with two new features this week. Here's my thoughts on "Focus" and "Web Answers"...

First, I must say that I like Focus. Frequently when I search unseccessfully, I change one word in the query to try and adjust my angle. Focus goes a step further and peaks my interest with queries that I otherwise would not have thought of. For instance, I've been looking recently for a very particular set of golf irons. The Focus feature helps me use the engine's full potential by suggestion queries related to 'Cobra SS-I Oversized Irons'.

Now...Web Answers. First, let me say that the technology behind it is impressive. Give credit to the scientists and engineers at AJ who have compiled such a strong product. However, I do see Web Answers causing more problems that it solves.

First and foremost, there is a legitimate possibility that the Web Answer given back may be inaccurate. I was reminded of my friends remark many years ago, noting that the Internet is about as reliable as the "men's room wall". While things have improved, web sources are still regarded as inferior to paper or quoted sources. AJ does no verification of the accuracy of each Web Answer, so please corroborate your answers. I can just envision a bunch of 7th grade Michael Isokoffs typing in a question and then quoting the answer in their papers as "anonymous Internet source". As a veteran print journalist told me on Monday, "reporters are lazy". Hey dude...it's not just reporters.

Secondly, this continues to transform search engines into super-membranes, satisfying every need of the searcher instead of being a gateway between the searcher and web publisher. This is destined to continue as new mediums like blackberrys and mobile phones become standard equipment. Future users will not want to click-thru to a publisher's site, and so the 'Web Answers' phenomenon will grow. Before long, web publishers (and I am one) will just be used by the engines for the information they provide, and less and less visitors will be forwarded through. Not that I'm pessimistic or anything...

There you go...two new features to play with. Your thoughts are welcome, as always.


Post a Comment

<< Home