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Ask Jeeves' new features zoom in, out

One feature lets people narrow or broaden the field of search results, as well as view results for related concepts.

Ask Jeeves has added new features to its search engine with the aim of setting its service apart from rivals, the company said Thursday.

One new feature builds on Ask Jeeves' long-standing clustering technology, which parses search results into concepts or ideas related to any given query. Called Zoom, the new feature lets people narrow or broaden the field of search results, as well as view results for related concepts. For example, for a search on the term "cancer," visitors can narrow it to types of the disease, or they could expand it to related illnesses.

"We understand how the Web is related through social networks, and that makes our results editorially different from Google's and Yahoo's, which have similar methods of delivering results," said Jim Lanzone, senior vice president of search properties for Ask Jeeves. "We think that's valuable."

The other new feature centers on delivering better answers to direct questions--for example, "Who shot John Lennon?"--by scouring the unstructured data on the Web for accurate information.

The technology advancements are part of Ask Jeeves' strategy to outshine rivals Yahoo and Google in the search market. The company has long operated in the shadows of the larger search providers, despite financial success of its own. Though Ask Jeeves has kept pace in the feature wars of rivals, it has yet to win the cult of personality of Google or the enormous audience of Yahoo. The company is trying to step out of the shadows by improving its core search technology this year.

In March, Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp announced plans to buy Ask Jeeves for nearly $2 billion; part of Ask Jeeves' plan is to tap InterActiveCorp's cash reserves to continue to expand the business internationally and bolster the product. Ask Jeeves recently bought Excite Italia, the operator of Excite Europe, from Internet service provider Tiscali.