The week has been a sad time for the Internet. As I am sure most of you already know, Ask Jeeves will be saying goodbye to their corporate icon of 10 years. Jeeves, the butler mascot for Ask Jeeves, is retiring from his duties as ask's "answer man". Instead, the search engine is slimming down to its long used but little promoted "Ask.com" domain name.
The Internet's favorite butler has been serving up answers since its creation in November of 1995. From the start, Jeeves was different than the other search services of the day. The idea behind Jeeves was not to create yet another search engine or directory, but to offer a question/answering service. Mr. Jeeves was basically a virtual online concierge. At that time, AltaVista had just publicly launched and Yahoo!, although popular, was still a small operation hosted on Netscape servers. My, how times have changed!
Why is Ask Retiring Jeeves?
The move to retire Jeeves as the face for Ask.com is likely related to recent IAC / Ask Jeeves acquisition that took place last year. Was this a good move? Unfortunately, only time will tell. Shifting ones brand when it's already a focal point within the industry it occupies is often at times very dangerous. While Jeeves is just a static drawing of a butler, the Jeeves character has come to mean a lot for people over the years. There are people who take Jeeves very literally. They think of Jeeves as the guy behind their searches, a cartoon man giving them answers. Jeeves is what makes the site unique for these people, pure and simple.
Furthermore, I believe the timing is all wrong for this move as well. Ask has just expanded their search technology and has launched their own paid placement program. They are now in a position to compete on the same levels as MSN, Yahoo!, and Google, and then they decide to make this drastic change to their image. My philosophy is simple... why change what isn't broken.
Jeeves' isn't leaving with our first saying "Goodbye". The people over at Ask created a retirement website where visitors can read Jeeves' official resignation letter, cast a vote for what he should do during his retirement, and even sign his retirement card. In addition, Ask put together this very funny going away video.
So what does a mid-aged search engine butler do after he retires? Does he golf? Does he fish? Does he take in a few ball games? Does he become one of those slow Sunday-driving elderly that get mad when you step on their lawn? Wwhatever comes of Jeeves, I wish him all the best.