Search Engines Look Beyond the Web

Search will increasingly reach users on devices and applications outside of the browser, executives say at the Search Engine Strategies conference. Ask Jeeves plans targeted mobile search, while AOL preps pay-per-call ads.

NEW YORK—The major search engines are looking beyond the Web to find, display and make money from search results.

At the Search Engines Strategies 2005 Conference & Expo here this week, search-engine executives offered a peek into a future wherein general search will increasingly tap sources outside the Web and in which users will access search from mobile devices and emerging applications.

"If we were able to take search forward five years, you can then answer, discover, recall and publish information anywhere, anytime," said Oshoma Momoh, general manager of Microsoft Corp.s MSN Search, during a panel discussion. "Search begins to fade in the background a little bit, [and] search becomes a bit more of an ingredient rather than something thats front and center."

Executives from such search leaders as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. sounded a similar tune, noting such trends as search moving "outside the paradigm of the box."

In the more immediate future, Ask Jeeves Inc. and America Online Inc. are preparing new services to provide search and search-based advertising outside the Web.

Ask Jeeves plans to offer a targeted mobile search service in the second quarter of the year, while America Online Inc. wants to start running search ads in early April that connect users to phone numbers rather than Web links.

Ask Jeeves will release a mobile search service targeted at the Blackberry and Treo devices, said Jim Lanzone, Ask Jeeves senior vice president of search properties. Rather than providing Web links, Ask Jeeves wants to return more specific answers to queries from mobile devices.

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The service will be called "mobile smart answers," referring the name of an Ask Jeeves Web search feature that highlights structured results such as movie times and weather in a box above traditional search results.

"Smart answers is the right way to deliver information for a mobile phone [because] a user does not want to click links or wait for page to download," Lanzone said.

Ask Jeeves began offering "smart answers" in late 2002 and now has about two dozen broad categories of them that compile information from the Web, Ask Jeeves portal properties such as My Way and partners.

Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have expanded their mobile search offerings in recent months. Yahoo has launched both a mobile browser and SMS (Short Messaging Service) feature for its local listings, while Google has focused on sending queries and targeted results through SMS.

Ask Jeeves also is investigating the use of SMS for mobile search in the future, but Lanzone said the company instead decided to begin with targeted answers on larger-screen devices.

"People on Blackberries and Treos are more likely to utilize our services," Lanzone said. "People with more robust devices are ready for this."

Next Page: AOLs plans take shape.