Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Whats So Cool About Cuil?

On Monday the much-hyped new search engine Cuil (actually pronounced "cool") was touted as the next Google killer, fast forward a few hours and the bandwagon began to lose its stem as several issues plague the promising new site.

Founded by husband-and-wife team Tom Costello and Anna Patterson, a search-engine researcher from Stanford University and a Google technical lead, and Russell Power, another former Google executive, Cuil aims to rank the relevance of search results by content analysis rather than by popularity.

In terms of looks and performance, Cuil seemed to be very responsive and the start page looks good, at least when the service is up. It took me several hours to actually get a chance to try the service out as it seemed they where plagued by interruptions. "Due to overwhelming interest, our Cuil servers are running a bit hot right now," was the only message I got when trying to perform a search. "The search engine is momentarily unavailable as we add more capacity."

Upon its release Cuil was hyped up by many bloggers and respected reports that seemingly had never even tried the service. However once the smoke and mirrors cleared and users began to actually test out the functionality many of the very same supports turned their backs and quickly jumped ship.

Among the many complaints from first time users was the lack of relevant search results. "I tried it for an hour," wrote a commentator on the TG Daily Website. "Any multi-word search generated completely useless results, which seemed completely random. By contrast, Google comes up with quality, relevant results. Cuil works about as well as if I typed random URLs into the browser. Absolutely useless!"

Not only are users experiencing unrelated search terms but they appear to also be getting hit with unrelated images. Because of quirks in Cuil's search algorithm, search results of some brands are popping up with pictures of competing or even irrelevant brands.

Cuil Vice President of Communications Vince Sollitto just told that Cuil's engineers are working on the problem. Sollitto indicated that the bug was a bump in the road of the company's challenge in trying to provide an image next to every search result.

So whats so cool about Cuil, so far as I see it not much. Cuil is boasting an index of 120 billion Web pages, "three times more than any other search engine." However Google supposedly has an index of over a trillion unique URLs.

The one area that Cuil actually succeeds in the cool factor is that according to their privacy policy they actually promises privacy: "When you search with Cuil, we do not collect any personally identifiable information, period. We have no idea who sends queries: not by name, not by IP address, and not by cookies (more on this later). Your search history is your business, not ours."

Given time Cuil may be a great search engine, but its apparent that they have many issues and many challenges ahead before they can be the next best thing. Are they a Google killer? I highly doubt that. Google is to strong a force in the market and simply works too well.

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