The AP article: Barry Diller turns to Ask Jeeves for answers, takes a look at how Jeeves might fit into Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp an organization that the AP's Michael Liedtke calls a "crazy quilt of electronic commerce."
The article doesn't offer any new info about a possible name change at Ask Jeeves but Diller does tell Liedtke that he's considering leaving the Google ad network and forming an his own network when AJ's contract with Google expires in 2007.
Right now, I see this as very unlikely. Piper Jaffray analyst Safa Rashtchy also agrees with this view. He's quoted throughout the article.
I think Mr. Diller is just "working the room" in hopes of getting a better deal from Google and/or seeing what Yahoo or Microsoft might come up with.
Whatever the case, Diller's comments will likely make for some great conversation.
Diller also is quoted saying:
We came along at the right time at Fox [tv] with a differentiated product and I think the analogy to Ask is apt,'' Diller said. "It's a reasonable parallel to think that we can say, 'Here's a service with different features from Google and it is really good.' It's a bet that we are making and over time the world is going to get to see the result.
Ask Jeeves has become a very useful search resource. It's one that I love to demonstrate and discuss during training sessions since many people still think that the AJ of 2005 is the same AJ that was around in 1999 or 2000. People that I show AJ to are very often delightfully surprised.
Providing interesting and useful search services is not a field of dreams. Building it doesn't mean that people will learn about it, understand why it's useful and then come and use it.
As Greg Saks correctly points out in the article, it's also about branding, gaining mindshare, and getting the word out in a time when one company, Google, equals search for many people.
Yes, competing with Google by offering innovative and useful services is an issue. Google does great work but so do others. However, competing against the Google's mindshare/buzz juggernaut is something else. It just might be the biggest challenge other search companies face.