Jeeves gets an e-commerce girlfriend! adding AskIda feature as search engines try to satisfy selective surfers

Over the past six months, sites such as have been featuring "AskIda", a product search service that Ask Jeeves has been selling as part of its business solutions. But, starting this Monday, the company's Web site,, fronted by butler Jeeves, will also add the AskIda feature as it gears up for the holiday season.

AskIda is one of a number of recent tweaks to search sites, which one recent survey believes are doomed unless they change soon.

The AskIda feature is essentially a vertical search that asks a series of questions to help a potential buyer identify the exact product they are looking for. The questions steer people to any of the goods offered by the 12 companies that Ask Jeeves has partnered with, including eHobbies.

Ask Jeeves is also partnering with StreamSearch to add its database of more than two million streaming and downloadable audio and video files. The partnership is expected to add as many as five million new files to search by next year, according to Ask Jeeves.

Not to be outdone, the lean-and-mean Google has been adding a little muscle to a search site some call the lightest on the Web because of its spartan appearance.

Company spokesman David Krane said Google rolled several new services, including access to stock quotes. News headlines have started accompanying some search terms that may have been recently in the headlines. And Google has also added a map-generating feature for address requests.

Google has also begun an advertising initiative that lets anyone take out text-based ads for as little as $50. The ads appear whenever a particular search term chosen by the advertiser is requested. A maximum of three ads per search term is allowed.

According to analysts, such changes are necessary if search sites are to survive. Technology strides by companies like Inktomi have created a savvier user who expects more than some search sites currently deliver, according to a new report from cPulse, an independent research service owned by the GartnerGroup.

Users of some search sites have become more dissatisfied, according to the cPulse survey. Some 12 percent of the 10,152 people surveyed by cPulse said they'd never again return to those directories.

"What we clearly see is a point in the future where search technology will become so good you won't have to need to drill down ten layers," said cPulse executive vice president Jody Dodson.

For instance, Dodson said search site users sometimes don't know how to spell a particular term, or aren't particularly sure what search terms they should use. Only a smattering of sites have created room for such users, although the technology exists right now to let that happen, he said.

"The entire Internet is moving towards the nirvana of one question, one answer," Dodson said.

To have your say online click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.