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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

SES: Changes at

Mark Malseed is the coauthor of The Google Story, a best-selling account of the company’s rise, which is being published in 17 languages worldwide. He writes about technology and politics from Washington, DC, and travels giving lectures and coaching seminars on search.

Live from New York ... it’s SES! The annual Manhattan meetup of the search industry faithful got off to a roaring start today. Overflow crowds packed the grand ballroom of the Hilton New York to hear entertainment mogul Barry Diller welcome a rebranded to the InterActiveCorp/IAC family. Not present, of course, was old Jeeves himself, who has been officially retired as the company answerman.

In Jeeves’ place, users are now beckoned to, as the slogan goes, “use tools – feel human.” To achieve that, they’ve introduced a bunch of new features. On the homepage, a customizable AJAX-flavored toolbox allows navigation from the right side of the screen, a look that differentiates it from Google and the others.

Mapping the SES with

Jeeves – make that Ask – also jazzed up its Maps & Directions offerings, with plenty of cool features including aerial (not satellite) photography that zooms in from overhead, and fast-updating point-to-point driving directions. For urban locations, you can get separate walking directions too. Chris at SEW has a full writeup.

Will the rebranding work? Ask was the talk of the morning at SES, and will be tonight with its Code Red party, but the site faces an uphill battle to win users over from Google, Yahoo, AOL and MSN, all of whom it trails in market share. Will anyone remember to give Ask a try tomorrow? Let’s hope – search could use some alternatives, as Diller repeated a few times during his talk.

Overall, what used to be a quieter day at SES (before the two-day Expo gets going) this time featured jam-packed sessions all day. No official numbers yet, but I’ve heard attendance may top 5,000 this year. More tomorrow from the Big Apple.


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