AskJeeves-owned site takes on Google

The company pushes its into the search ring, bringing the recent purchase out of beta and onto Google's turf.

AskJeeves launched a new search engine Monday, going toe-to-toe on quality claims with Web darling Google.

AskJeeves' faces a mountain of competition from back-end technology providers. Competitors include Inktomi, giant Web portals such as Microsoft's MSN, Yahoo and a host of hungry start-ups, such as WiseNut, that hope to make a splash with search improvements. Still, analysts said, the service likely will be able to carve out a niche for itself.

"It sounds like (Teoma) should be a worthy competitor to Google," said Jarvis Mak, a senior analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings. "Now they have to work on replacing them...(AskJeeves) needs a key differentiator that makes (its) search product superior, which is what Teoma thinks it has."

Emeryville, Calif.-based AskJeeves purchased Teoma Technologies in September in an attempt to capitalize on Teoma's search technology by expanding and syndicating its search services. The site has been in beta since last spring.

Despite the heated competition, AskJeeves is confident that Teoma's technology surpasses traditional search techniques. The company said Teoma, which stands for the word "expert" in Gaelic, gathers search results from experts within a specific area. In addition, Teoma narrows search results and ranks Web sites according to "subject-specific popularity." For instance, if someone searched for the word "Mustang," would refine the search, giving a set of results that are about or related to the subject, such as "Ford Mustang" and "Mustang Horses."

Teoma also divides the Web into local subject areas, featuring a list of authoritative sites and links that relate to a search topic. For instance, if a history professor has a page devoted to his personal collection of favorite Web sites about World War II, then Teoma would show the site under the heading Resources.

"As the Web has gotten bigger, it has become harder to find these valuable sites," Steve Berkowitz, president of AskJeeves Web Properties, said in a statement. "Now with Teoma's methodology, users can feel more confident in the accuracy and relevance of their Web searches."

Teoma has a long way to catch up with Google, which has indexed some 3 billion Web pages, according to the company. Teoma has crawled 400 million Web pages and has indexed 200 million of those pages, up from 90 million indexed pages when it was acquired by AskJeeves last fall.

"Google welcomes any Net search engine," said Matt Cutts, software engineer at Google. "We hope that new engines will just help raise the awareness of the value of search engines in people's day-to-day lives. (But) it remains to be seen how effective any one search-engine is going to be. It's one of those things that only time can tell."

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