A couple of ex-Google employees last night unveiled what may be the “most comprehensive search engine on the Web.” The initial hype centered around Cuil’s (pronounced “cool”) possibility of beating Google as a primary Internet search engine. From TechCrunch:
Menlo Park based Cuil will launch later this evening with an index of 120 billion web pages, making them arguably the most comprehensive search engine on the web (Google doesn’t disclose the size of their index, although they claim to know about a trillion unique web pages). Much of the secret sauce of Cuil is in the way they index the web and handle actual queries by users. Both are costly to scale, and Cuil claims to have found a way to massively reduct those costs. That allows them to run the search engine a lot cheaper, even at Google-scale should it ever reach that point.
Cuil also claims to have better search results than Google and others based on how they index websites. They do not simply catalog keywords on a site and then rank the site based on its importance. They also work to understand how words are related (France – cheese – wine, for example), to return more relevant results to users. That means users search the same way they always have, but Cuil will try to return better results via refinements in a “explore by category” module to the right of results. A search for dogs, for example, will return category results for “water dogs,” “crossbreed,” “cocker spaniel,” etc. Some of these related terms do not include the term “dog.”
Cuil is experimenting with a new type of search interface as well. Results are shown in three columns and contain an image and more summary text than existing search engines. In addition to refinement by category, Cuil will recommend related searches via tabs across the top of search results. A search for New York, for example, also has tabbed results for recommended refinements like New York Times, New York City, New York Yankees, etc.
Try it for yourself here.
I tried Cuil myself to see if it was as fantastic as promised. I like the black interface, but the plus points end there. On a vanity search, Cuil couldn’t find my name or my travel book, which is widely distributed. Minus 2 points for Cuil’s ignorance of my ego.
Next, I tried a non-vanity search for puggles, a type of dog. The first result in the right-hand corner was The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism’s homepage.
That’s about as much evidence as I need to avoid using Cuil in the foreseeable future. If this search engine is truly a Google competitor, somebody tell me why.