Ask Jeeves, the search engine with the butler mascot, wants more respect.
Known as an also-ran after Web search leaders Google and Yahoo, Ask Jeeves (www.ask.com) last week added a preview feature that provides thumbnail images of Web pages it finds. (This works only in the Windows version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer.) Park the cursor over a binoculars icon that appears next to many of Jeeves's search results, and an image of that link's page will pop up in a small window.
"It eliminates the need to go pogo-sticking around the Web to decide where you want to go," said Jim Lanzone, Jeeves' senior vice president of search properties.
He said the company's database of preview images should cover more than 90 percent of the top 10 results. More obscure sites, however, might not have previews available for some time.
Lanzone said user tests suggest that previews reduce the number of clicks people need to find information by 50 to 70 percent. That seems surprising, considering how hard it is to read the text in many of these previews. Still, the images are large enough to give people a basic idea of a site's focus.
Ask Jeeves is a relatively small player in Web search, handling about 7 percent of all queries in the United States. To try to build on that audience, it has expanded its Web index and added many search features. The new previews are one example; another is a batch of new shortcuts.
These shortcuts, like those added at other big search sites, let Jeeves automatically present particular categories of data in response to queries phrased the right way. The idea is to display information directly instead of making readers click through to other sites.
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