LAS VEGAS—Ready or not, desktop search is set to gain yet another major contender next month.
Ask Jeeves Inc. plans to release a desktop-search product in December, a company executive confirmed this week during an interview at the WebmasterWorld.com World Search Conference here.
Desktop search has become the latest battleground among leading search players, with Google, Microsofts MSN division and Yahoo all working on products. But if desktop search catches on among users, its unclear how it would affect the webmasters and marketers vying for top rankings.
While Emeryville, Calif.-based Ask Jeeves hasnt provided many details, its product appears likely to follow the approach of other Web search engines by combining hard-drive results, such as from e-mails and files, with its core Web results.
“Its going to be an inclusive thing, and we hope to incorporate the whole experience,” said Michael Palka, director of product management at Ask Jeeves.
Signs of Ask Jeeves desktop plans surfaced earlier this year when it acquired desktop-search startup Tukaroo Inc.
During the launch in September of the MyJeeves personalized search service, an Ask Jeeves executive told eWEEK.com that desktop search would be out by the end of the year and would include integration with MyJeeves.
Among major Web search engines, it will join Google Inc., which already released its desktop search beta, and Microsoft Corp., whose MSN division has slated a beta of desktop search for December.
Google Desktop Search delivers both local and Web results within its Web interface. Meanwhile, an internal beta of MSNs product leaked onto the Web this week focuses on returning different types of results depending on where a user is working within Windows.
Also in the wings is Yahoo Inc. Its chief executive, Terry Semel, said in a financial analyst conference earlier this month that the Sunnyvale, Calif., company is working on desktop search, but he offered few details on its plans.
Effect on Webmasters
?”> In an interview at the conference, Tim Mayer, director of product management for Yahoo Search, declined to discuss when Yahoo might launch desktop search. But he said that the interest among search engines in desktop search is part of the broader trend of users wanting to access Web search results in new ways,
“We feel the desktop is important, and we want to provide a full search experience,” Mayer said. “Its a strategic entry point, and a lot of [Web] search is about distribution.”
The search engines may spur more Web searches through the desktop, but the effect of desktop search on the webmasters and marketers vying for top rankings remains unclear.
Some search-engine marketers anticipate that desktop search will change the dynamics of how users view results, but others are not convinced that it will gain as much traction as it has hype.
“Certain people in the industry say it will revolutionize search-engine marketing,” said Joe Laratro, vice president of technology and chief technology officer at search marketing company MoreVisibility, of Boca Raton, Fla. “But [desktop search] doesnt mean there will be a diversion from users looking for search results on the Web.”
Other trends, such as the growth in multiword search queries and introduction of advanced search features where users can tweak relevancy rankings, are more likely to force changes in the way webmasters optimize their sites for search engines.
MSN, in its beta launch of its algorithmic search, included a feature where users can alter relevancy such as the timeliness and link popularity of a given result. If that were to catch on among users, Laratro said, Web site operators would have little knowledge of where their sites were ranking among a group of users.
In other Ask Jeeves developments, the company followed up its recent revamp this week by adding the ability for users to view cached Web pages in search results and by supporting Mac-based Web browsers, a company spokesman said.