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Ask axes Jeeves

Artistic differences, says close friend

The search engine Ask Jeeves' dapper, grinning butler will soon be out of a job.

Jeeves' pink slip came from IAC Chairman and CEO Barry Diller, who announced the change during a Goldman Sachs Group investor conference yesterday in New York. IAC completed its purchase of Ask Jeeves in July.

"By the way, Jeeves will disappear, and we will be called Ask or Ask.com," Diller said during the conference. "Not that I don't like that butler. He's actually a thinner butler now."

Jeeves, created by British humorist PG Wodehouse, was slimmed down and given a tan last year, said Lisa Meakin, a London-based spokeswoman for Ask Jeeves. But surveys showed users tended to pigeonhole the search engine as "old-fashioned" and only appropriate for question-based queries, Meakin said.

The company's research has shown that use of the Jeeves character as the prominent symbol of the brand blinds people to recent changes and improvements in the search engine, the company said in a statement.

No timeline has been given for Jeeves' departure, and no final decision on a new name for the search engine has been made, Meakin said.


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