Ask.com turns to Symantec to secure more traffic

Ask.com is counting on people's fear of online mischief to bring more traffic to its Internet search engine.

To give Web surfers greater peace of mind, Ask has forged a deal that will plant its search engine on Norton security software made by Symantec Corp. The latest test version of Norton 360, due out Tuesday, will rate the security threat posed by sites found through searches done through the new toolbar.

Financial details about the deal aren't being disclosed.

The multiyear partnership connects Ask.com to the tens of million of people who rely Norton's Internet security software to detect sites that distribute potentially malicious or nettlesome computer programs.

Oakland-based Ask has been striving to boost its market share in the lucrative Internet search market for several years. But it hasn't had much success despite rolling out new products that have won positive reviews and been promoted heavily in advertising campaigns financed by its corporate parent, InterActiveCorp.

Through December, Ask remained stuck in fourth place in the U.S. search market with a market share of roughly 4%, according to the Internet measurement firm comScore Inc. Google dominated the market with a share of about 63%, followed by Yahoo Inc. at 17% and Microsoft Corp. at 11%.

Ask's effort to do a better job identifying dangerous websites is a game of catch-up.

Last year, Yahoo joined forces with Symantec rival McAfee Inc. to offer security alerts in its search results. Google also has an early warning system that's designed to guard its users against high-tech skullduggery.

The troubleshooting isn't always accurate, as Google recently demonstrated. A glitch caused Google to sound an alarm about every sites that turned up in the results of searched conducted for nearly an hour on Saturday morning. Google blamed the problem on a botched update of a list flagging suspicious sites.

Ask.com isn't worried about bogus alerts cropping up in its Norton partnership.

"We are confident in their ability to get the ratings right," said Andrew Moers, who oversees Ask's partnerships.

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