Ask Makeover: Looks Nice, Won't Help.

Ask has launched a major new interface, reviewed in detail here by John Battelle.  The company has also launched a mystifying new ad campaign–“The Algorithm Killed Jeeves”–that is apparently directed at an audience that doesn’t include anyone we know. 

Battelle likes the new interface, and even the old one had some features that were better than anything else in the search business.  The trouble for Barry Diller, Jim Lanzone, and Ask–a challenge that has also hobbled Microsoft, Yahoo, and others–is that the search business isn’t about features or relevance.  It’s about consumer habit and brand.  Thus, Ask’s latest interface and advertising efforts aren’t likely to be any more successful than the last ones…

Battelle quotes the reviewers’ guide:

All this is based on a new algorithm called Morph, which according to the reviewer’s guide, is “a new content-matching and ranking algorithm that literally transforms the entire page according to your unique query, presenting the right information, from the right sources, in the right place, at the right time. Morph, which deep-dives hundreds of structured databases, takes into account not only relevance based on source signals, but also previous user behaviour for your query. owns the patent on using click behaviour to improve search relevance (via the DirectHit acquisition in 2000).”

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