Ask Jeeves Zooms into Site Preview

The search company launches a beta feature for previewing Web pages in search results and expands the features of its Smart Search program.

Ask Jeeves has launched a Web search feature that lets users preview a Web page before clicking a link.

The Emeryville, Calif., company on Monday unveiled a beta of the site-preview feature, which it calls "Binoculars." When users click over a binoculars icon appearing next to search results, they can view a thumbnail of the Web page before clicking the link.

Ask Jeeves Inc. also announced a new set of Smart Search features that return movie reviews, sports scores, package-tracking information, biographies of famous people and more at the top of search results when relevant search queries are entered.

Smart Search, which the company launched in spring 2003, combines Ask Jeeves Teoma search engine, natural language technology and structured data from partners to present a package of information along with traditional links.

"Were looking to take search beyond the 10 blue links experience and go beyond traditional Web searches," said Daniel Read, director of product management at Ask Jeeves. "Both Binoculars and the Smart Search features are enabling us to do this."

Ask Jeeves, which competes with Web search heavyweights Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., has been expanding its reach and scope in recent months as search competition heats up. Last month, it completed its acquisition of Interactive Search Holdings Inc., which doubled its search market share and brought it portal sites and an online ad service. Earlier this month, it bought desktop search startup Tukaroo Inc.

The Binoculars features had been in development for the past six months, Read said. Based on a study the company commissioned, Ask Jeeves estimates that the site preview capability reduces the number of clicks required to find relevant search results by 50 percent to 70 percent.

"This helps our users stop pogo-sticking around and drilling through multiple Web sites," Read said.

But the site-preview thumbnails work only for users browsing the Web using Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer browser, and its optimized for those on broadband connections, Read said.

With the Smart Search expansion, Ask Jeeves is able to take advantage of some of the content from its IHS properties. For example, sports scores, which appear when users enter a major sports team as a query, are fed from the My Way portal, Read said.

Among other partners, Ask Jeeves is including movie reviews from the Web site Rotten Tomatoes and is retrieving package-tracking information from United Parcel Service of America Inc. and FedEx Corp.

Ask Jeeves determines what structured content to put in the Smart Search section of its search results and does not accept paid or sponsored content, Read said.

More information on the new Smart Search features is available here.

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