INNOVATORS: David Warthen

Ask.com founder David Warthen (L) with Legacy Series Magazine editor Robert Yehling

Serendipitous moments always create great opportunities for conversation, ideas, and new revelations. They also create great stories.

On September 28, I took a one-day break from my editor’s duties at The Legacy Series: Celebrating Technology and Innovation to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of my alma mater, Carlsbad (CA) High School, for my work in publishing, journalism, writing, teaching and sports coaching. While waiting with a crowd of 3,000 for the ceremony to begin, I turned around — and right behind me, also awaiting induction, was one of the great pioneers in information technology, David Warthen.

Among technology engineers, David is a living legend. In 1996, he created the world’s first common-language search engine, AskJeeves.com (now Ask.com), which flung open the doors through which Yahoo! and Google later stormed. After he sold Ask.com, in 2004, he joined the video technology company GlobalStreams, where he served as Chief Technology Officer — the same year he founded Eye Games, a webcam-based children’s video game company. These days, he is CTO of InfoSearchMedia, and sits on the board of directors of the technology site Kozoru.

AskJeeves.com was as visionary and revolutionary as any online service — ever. Consider that in 1996, business people were just getting used to the idea of email and browsing websites. AOL was king of the fledgling hill. The dot-com boom hadn’t happened yet, and search engines were the province of academia and the technology world. Warthen changed that by creating a service, named for one of his favorite literary characters, British author/humorist P.G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves,” that allowed users to ask questions and receive answers. It connected the Internet in a way that had never been seen before, and made the Internet a valuable resource and reference tool for millions. In many ways, it paved the way for the everyday online experience.

David and I graduated from Carlsbad High one year apart; he in 1976, myself in 1977. Even in high school, one could see the potential that his keen intelligence and out-of-the-box viewpoints might engender. When I first heard he was the man behind AskJeeves.com, I marveled at his career from afar. This summer, while preparing our editorial presentation for The Legacy Series Magazine, I decided that we needed this technology visionary in our publication — not only for his accomplishments, but for his laser-sharp vision on the future of IT’s relationship with our lives and our economy.

So it was a wonderful treat to share the stage with him at a truly honoring event. We also had a couple of catch-up conversations, during which I realized just how much of an innovator and visionary this man is. Whatever he touches not only succeeds, but also changes the playing field in its sector, whether search engines (AskJeeves.com), video technology (GlobalStreams), or children’s video games (Eye Games). At 54, he has plenty of creative years ahead, and his finger is firmly on the pulse of tomorrow.

In November, we will be featuring David in The Legacy Series Magazine, which will be distributed internationally as a print magazine, tablet publication, online publication and Mobile App. I have the great pleasure of conducting the interview and writing the story of not only a treasure in our recent technological history, but a man who truly cares about your computer user experience — and mine.

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