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Cuil Search Engine

Cuil Search Engine

Can Cuil's new search engine capture the salmon of knowledge?

Google has yet another a new challenger for the search engine crown
I'm annoyed with Google at the moment -- it is spamming me with intrusive Google Toolbar adverts on its main page -- so I might just give a rival a try. One launched today is called Cuil (or "cool"), which is "an old Irish word for knowledge," says the site.

This is different from Google in that it displays results in two or three columns (thus reducing what on Google amounts to "the tyranny of the top hit"), quotes enough content to be useful, has an illustration with each entry, and does some clustering, It also claims to focus on content. The site says:

Rather than rely on superficial popularity metrics, Cuil searches for and ranks pages based on their content and relevance. When we find a page with your keywords, we stay on that page and analyze the rest of its content, its concepts, their inter-relationships and the page's coherency.

Cuil's other claim to fame is that it indexes more of the web than anybody else. At the moment, it says: "Search 121,617,892,992 web pages". This is presumably why Google posted a not very useful boast on its blog last week, We knew the web was big...

But Cuil has some obvious drawbacks, even on two minutes' use. For example, it is no doubt a good idea to focus on content, but it gets a bit repetitive if you're faced with hits from basically the same content at different addresses. Another drawback: I searched for [google official blog] without any quotes, and got nothing from Cuil: It simply says:

We didn't find any results for "google official blog"

Yeah, I do wish people would use [square brackets] to show what's typed into a search box, but there you go. The same search in Google correctly finds Official Google Blog and 130m hits, not zero hits. If I'm not using quotation marks, I don't see why Cuil should be so picky about me misremembering Google's official word order.

One thing in Cuil's favour is that its founders and staff have enough background (ie ex-Google employees) and backing to get coverage in The New York Times, TechCrunch, Search Engine Land and even The Guardian.

Whether it will actually do any better than Vivisimo, Teoma, Hakia, Kartoo, Wikia etc is another matter. Google is no longer winning by delivering much better results than the competition (provable here), it's winning by tying in other products (Gmail etc) and because we all love familiar things and don't like unfamiliar ones.

So what can be done about the increasingly bad results that Google produces? The obvious answer is to use multiple vertical-market search engines that focus only on the topic you want. Google did this rather badly and the feature has been quietly buried away where you won't find it. (To be fair, Google Scholar seems to be more successful.)

Scirus is one example, and Kosmix is having a go. But I still wouldn't bet on specialist search engines taking off.....

So, what do you think of Cuil? Or does nobody care any more?

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