Ask Jeeves Search Brings Navigation Through Concepts

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2005-03-18 Print this article Print

By tapping into its clustering technology, the company wants to expose both narrower and broader categories of related search terms to speed users' Web searches.

SAN DIEGO—Ask Jeeves is preparing to release a related-search feature that it hopes will relieve Web searchers from the burden of repeatedly refining their queries. Executives from the Oakland, Calif., company demonstrated a prototype of the feature this week during the OReilly Emerging Technology Conference here. It will expand on an existing related-categories function by offering categories of search-term suggestions that both narrow and broaden a query. The expanded feature is expected to go live on the search site within the next few weeks, said Apostolos Gerasoulis, executive vice president of research and labs at Ask Jeeves. The company will first make it available for Web searches, but eventually plans to add the option to vertical search areas such as image search.
To deliver related queries, Ask Jeeves is tapping into the clustering technology built into its Teoma search engine.
"Were trying to improve the [search] technology and provide a differentiator from the rest of the industry," said Gerasoulis, a co-founder of Teoma. "We wanted to focus on quality that is very different from anyone else." Teoma is able to discern clusters of communities on the Web, Gerasoulis said. By understanding the popularity of expert communities and relationships among them, Ask Jeeves can determine categories of related search terms. Ask Jeeves, which bought Teoma in 2001, is a smaller competitor battling Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corps MSN division in the increasingly heated search-engine war. Click here to read about Ask Jeeves recent update of its Teoma engine and release of personalized search. Based on the prototype, Ask Jeeves will separate the navigation of related search terms into three categories. The first, under the heading "Narrow Your Search," provides refinements to a query, while the second, called "Related Topics," suggests more broadly related terms. In a demonstration, a search for the rock band The Beatles returned narrower searches such as "Beatles lyrics" and "Beatles pictures" as well as broader suggestions such as "Rolling Stones" and "Beatlemania." A third grouping focuses on peoples names that relate to a search. In his demo, Gerasoulis entered a query for "light bulb," hoping to find information about its inventor. In the "Related People" category alongside typical Web results, a link to a search on "Thomas Edison" appeared. "This is navigation through concepts," Gerasoulis said. With the upcoming feature, Ask Jeeves is exposing more of the capabilities of its clustering technology within the user interface of search. Clustering has gained the attention of both search startups and the larger engines. Startup Vivisimo Inc. has put clustering into action in its Clusty search site and as part of the revamped America Online Inc. search. Google has demonstrated research work into clustering for grouping similar searches, while Microsoft Research is testing a search toolbar that clusters results. Next Page: Adding research work into projects.

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel