Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
February 27th, 2006


Farewell, Jeeves

Although it’d been identifying itself as “Ask.com” more and more, Ask Jeeves was still that one site that had an anachronistic butler on the front page, serving up answers. It was the website with a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. But no longer. This morning, Jeeves was no longer to be found, replaced with a message on the company’s About page that smacked of marketing spin. “Where’s Jeeves?” the page ironically asked the reader:

After ten years of dutifully serving a growing population of internet users, Jeeves decided to step down as the face of AskJeeves.com, and retire in style. Jeeves symbolized a traditional, at-your-service butler which made people feel comfortable and at home with asking any type of question.

As the web became more of a real-time utility for people, Jeeves’ job dramatically changed. Users came to Ask Jeeves for more sophisticated searches. Searches that were informational, navigational, and ultimately, transactional. Ask.com users wanted a search engine to help them search, get and do whatever they needed – at a moment’s notice.

This drove us to focus on improving our robust search engine technology and give users the Web's most useful set of tools, and gave Jeeves the opportunity to relax. Today, as Ask.com we are singularly focused on helping users find what they need through the complicated, exciting, ever-changing web. No matter what the search, Ask.com is committed to meeting the search challenge.

Back in my elementary school days, before I discovered Google Beta, it was my preferred search engine, because asking the engine questions and getting structured responses was kind of fun. Jeeves was pretty much the only reason I ever revisted the site. His cheeky answers to some questions gave the search engine a personality that Jeeves never readily revealed.

The new Ask.com may have improved search, a cleaner interface – perhaps Mrs. Jeeves still takes care of that – and integration with Wikipedia all sound nice, I suppose, but it’s not nearly enough to keep me from going to Google. Google’s personality as a website was established through its simplicity and its colorful logo and name. Ask Jeeves did it through an unlikely character that actually entertained you as you used the Web. No replacement from Ask’s marketing department will get users to care about their site again. The new Ask.com has been reduced to a logo, a search box, and a hunk of whitespace.

Goodbye Jeeves, and good luck with your new gig as… bartender?!

Well at least there’s some hope: an Ask developer brought up the possibility of offering alternative skins for the site that include the helpful butler.


  1. Adding insult to the injury that is Jeeves’ forced retirement, the new Ask.com has also retired Teoma, a search engine that it acquired some time ago.