You have been dismissed, Jeeves. Ask.com was relaunched yesterday without any longer emphasizing the services of its butler mascot, originally a creation of author P.G. Wodehouse.
The site gave the noble servant a colorful sendoff after 10 dutiful years -- he was featured riding off into the sunset on horseback in his last graphical presentation on the site. JeevesRetirement.com was created to provide things like his farewell letter and notes of encouragement from well-wishers.
The butler's dismissal may seem like a logical move for Barry Diller's IAC/InterActive
If anything, history has shown us that common words often have an even higher hurdle to clear. AskJeeves.com never had a problem sending folks to Ask.com, but I can't be the only one who often found myself typing in the longer domain because it just felt right.
Jeeves gave personality to the search engine, and personality is sometimes as important as having superior searching technology and quick-loading pages. Branding is a big thing in the search space.
Consider this: Ask.com commands just 5.5% of the country's Web searches. That places it fifth behind Google
A search portal by any other name is clearly still a search portal, and having a generic word like "ask" as your dot-com moniker may even be seen as a liability. CNET
CNET's portfolio is loaded with great common-word domains such as MP3.com, News.com, and TV.com, but they aren't the Net's favorite movie, news, and television sites, respectively.
IAC knows this. Many of its popular sites, including CitySearch, Ticketmaster, and HSN are more recognized brands than simply Cities.com, Tickets.com, or ShoppingFromTheCouch.com. Even at its Expedia
Losing the edge of Jeeves won't matter if the company is able to put its many dot-com puzzle pieces together. They make up an impressive portfolio. And it's an expensive portfolio, too. Ask.com didn't come cheap for IAC: The company shelled out $1.85 billion for the search engine last year. That may seem like a big tab for a company that commands just 6% of the search-engine market. Moreover, it grew revenues by a mere 9% over the past year, far slower than its larger rivals.
Did Ask need a makeover? You bet. Did it need to lose Jeeves along the way? I don't think so.
A lot is riding on this decision. My money is on Jeeves coming out of retirement in a few months.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story, though he has been a frequent freelance contributor to IAC's CitySearch. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.