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WEB 2.0: IAC chief has faith in Ask Jeeves

The butler can do it

IAC/InterActive chairman and CEO Barry Diller is confident that his newly acquired search engine, Ask Jeeves, can gain users and increase its share in a market dominated by Google.

When IAC’s acquisition of Ask Jeeves was completed in July, only 6.1 percent of all searches in the US were conducted on the site, according to comScore Networks. Ahead of Ask Jeeves that month were market leader Google (36.5 percent), Yahoo (30.5 percent), Microsoft (15.5 percent) and Time Warner, which includes America Online (9.9 percent).

“The first thing to do [to increase market share] is to gather the service itself together so it is differentiated in as many good ways as possible, so that the consumer, once they see it, says: ‘I like that,’“ Diller said on Wednesday at the Web 2.0 Conference.

IAC plans to make Ask Jeeves more attractive by linking it with its other web properties, such as Ticketmaster, he said. “We’ve got a lot of vertical services, so we’ll link them up with Ask and make them symbiotic, because we think everything is going to converge. So we can offer the best travel search, the best ticket search, and on and on,” he said. Other IAC web sites include Citysearch.com, Gifts.com, Match.com and RealEstate.com.

Then aggressive marketing needs to be thrown into the mix. “If you make the [competitive differences] dramatic enough and then market them noisily enough, then that’s a way to gain share,” Diller said.

Once Ask Jeeves is linked to IAC’s other popular sites, Diller believes it will be able to chip away at Google’s market share.

IAC added the search engine to its business because Diller and his team were convinced that “the search box was going to keep evolving and there would be more and more convergence through that window” - a conviction he still holds.

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