Updated from 11:50 a.m.
Jeeves is out of a job.
is dropping the butler who doubles as the mascot of its recently acquired Ask Jeeves online search business.
The New York-based online empire, which acquired Ask Jeeves for $1.9 billion in July, plans to rebrand the Web site as Ask.com, CEO Barry Diller said Wednesday at an investment conference. Just a month ago the butler's job seemed to be safe.
Speaking at a Goldman Sachs event in Manhattan, Diller said integrating Ask Jeeves into the company's other businesses was a top priority for IAC, which also runs Ticketmaster and Match.Com. Diller didn't say when Jeeves, who first hit the Internet in 1996, would disappear.
"It is potentially the glue for almost all of our services," Diller said of Ask.com, adding that the site will begin operating in China next year. "Our job is to increase Ask's market share."
Increasing Ask.com's market share will be no mean feat in the cutthroat Internet search business, which is dominated by deep-pocketed giants such as
and coveted by other well-heeled companies like
. Ask Jeeves has long trumpeted its so-called natural language capabilities, which allow users to type actual questions rather than simply searching on keywords, but the site remains a distinct also-ran.
Jeeves is a reminder of the "playful, early days of the Internet," said Rob Frankel, a Los Angles-based branding consultant who has done work for Microsoft,
. He questioned the decision to scrap the logo, saying that consumers are familiar with it and that creating a new brand won't necessarily boost site use.
"A brand is not doing its job unless it can show it's the ultimate solution," Frankel said.
Only last month, Ask Jeeves CEO Steve Berkowitz said at a conference in San Jose, Calif., that the butler was "safe for the moment,"
reported. At the time, Berkowitz noted that Jeeves was looking leaner than he had in some years.
But physical fitness aside, Diller said Wednesday that the butler has outlived his usefulness. "I don't see many tears on the floor," he joked.
On Wednesday, IAC rose 33 cents to $24.95.