Aug 5, 2008
Updated • Dec 10, 2012
Internet, Search

I can’t fully understand some of the decisions behind the launch of Cuil, the wanna-be Google Killer. I also don’t quite understand the amount of hype and media attention that went with it.

In short, Cuil (pronounced ‘cool’) is a brand new search engine founded by a team consisting of ex-Googlers and various other Internet entrepreneurs including the founder of AltaVista. The team contained members who had worked on Google’s search engine index itself, and led real credence to their claims.

Cuil stated they had a larger index to Google, provided more relevant results by analysing content rather then incoming links and had a more intuitive interface.

What happened was that Cuil crashed soon after launching, got back online then began providing some pretty dodgy results for search terms. It consequently got slammed across the blogosphere and media, not too good a beginning for any startup.

How did this happen?

CNET revealed that the non-relevant results was a consequence of the differing architecture of Cuil’s searching technology compared to Google.

“This is because Cuil isn't set up as a massively parallel search network the way, say, Google is… Each of Cuil's search appliances is specialized to a particular subcategory of results. There are machines that understand and index sports; others are experts on medicine, etc. As these search machines get overloaded, Sollitto said, they drop offline for some queries, and the machines left online return less-than-relevant results that then appear at the top of users' pages.”

This sounds plausible enough but I guess the real question is, Will this make a better search product eventually? Considering Google still stands head and shoulders above its competitors in terms of relevancy Cuil is going to have to do a lot of work to make headway against such a web giant.

The other main issue was in how Cuil marketed itself. Claims of a bigger index is really quite pointless considering that when Google itself launched, it had the smallest index out of all the 90’s search engines.

Cuil’s arguments about search indexing technology also seemed a little inaccurate by stating they would create more relevant results by analysing content itself, not just incoming links like Google. Considering Google’s entire business depends on the accuracy of its indexing its ridiculous to assume linking is the only determinate of their results. An estimated 200 different factors are used in the Google search algorithm and are constantly tweaked. Google recognizes there is no one way pages can be ranked relevantly and perhaps Cuil should to.

Cuil faces a lot more competition then Google did back in 1998 so I’ll be interested to see how this turns out. I do think their interface is more intuitive, however unfortunately even that could do with some ironing out as the pages seem to associate completely random images with websites.


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  1. garbanzo said on August 6, 2008 at 8:44 am

    i don’t know if my mind is just trained to the way google presents search results, but i tried one search in cuil and couldn’t wrap my head around what it spat out at me. tiled search results? not a very efficient way to organize data. that was the end of that…

  2. Rick said on August 6, 2008 at 5:34 am

    lol in my language it sounds like ‘testicules’

  3. GRTerrero said on August 5, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    This service has one huge drawback working against it…the name!

    In a few European languages its name can quite easily be misinterpreted to mean “arse”!

  4. Sammy said on August 5, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought Cuil pretty much sucked

  5. Ky said on August 5, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    I’m well aware of the excessive publicity that Cuil got when launched. So far, I can only say I’m fairly disappointed after using this search engine for a while. The results aren’t as comprehensive as Google’s and I too think there’s room for interface improvements.

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