Is Cuil a Google killer?
LONDON - Nick Jones, director of I Spy Search Marketing, asks whether Cuil, the search engine launched by former Google engineers, is good enough to take on the main global players.
The founders of Cuil, pronounced ‘cool', claim that the search engine does a better job than Google of indexing information online. They insist the technology it uses to index the web can understand the context surrounding each page and the concepts driving search requests.
Cuil has had a huge amount of publicity both pre and post launch, largely it would seem driven by the fact that some of the founders are former Google engineers and that they have secured pretty serious funding (certainly in comparison to other search engine start ups). It has attracted so much interest that its servers crashed shortly after launch (not good). At any one time there are 100 plus ‘search 2.0' search engines out there in development, most either remain firmly on the sidelines or are acquired early in their life cycle by a bigger organisation interested in their technology. A recent example of this would be Powerset, a semantic search engine, recently bought by Microsoft. So what is it about Cuil that has attracted such heavy funding? Is it the ‘Google killer' many people seem to be looking for? I'll try to assess the main features here (the answer is ‘no' by the way).
Cuil's USPs are that it will be able to index the whole intermet and that it doesn't use popularity to rank results as Google does. Instead Cuil ranks results based on on-page content. I'm concerned about how open this methodology is to being spammed and as other articles have pointed out this methodology tends to punish sites such as Wikipedia - try searching for Henry 8th and you'll see what I mean. I'm not a mathematician or programmer so I may be missing something here?
Quality of Results
It would be unfair to expect a brand new search engine to return results of the same quality as its competitors. However, some quick testing reveals the quality of results is currently seriously flawed. International and local results appear to be randomly mixed together. A search for the word ‘property' fails to return a result for the UK's leading property site Rightmove (amongst others) and includes several international sites.
Cuil doesn't retain user data. This is on the face of it a good thing. I'm not 100% sure if the wider user community is as concerned about this issue as those of us directly involved with search. For all of the search community's much publicised concerns about the amount of data Google holds and what it does with it, users really don't seem to care.
The site has a nice look and feel but does it do anything significantly different to the big three or the other start-ups out there? The main features are as follows.
Presentation of Results - Results are displayed in columns and feature images. The columns are certainly different to most search engine page layouts but I'm not convinced that the image display is as innovative or attractive as Ask.com's ‘binoculars' feature
Drilldown - clustering of results is old news, see Clusty, Ask and a host of other sites
Tabs - looks to be just another form of segmenting results, relevancy is good but will this really change the way users search? I'm not convinced that this offers much more than simply refining a Google search.
Navigation Suggestion - done by Yahoo, Ask and others
I'd agree with Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, who said: ‘Anybody who thought [Cuil] was a Google killer can really see now that no, that's not going to happen today - and the likelihood is that's not going to happen a year from now." My argument has always been that for Google's position to be seriously threatened, a search engine has to be developed that fundamentally improves and changes the way we search. Cuil has some great features and heavy backing but I don't believe it can achieve those two goals in its current guise.
This article was first published on revolutionmagazine.com
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