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Are You Searching For Another Search Engine?

For much of yesterday, the blogosphere was buzzing about the debut of a new search engine called Cuil--pronounced "cool," it's Gaelic for "knowledge" and not, so far as I know, slang in any other language for "it's really hard to find a short, catchy domain name these days."

The pitch with Cuil consists of an extremely broad index of Web pages (121,617,892,992, as of earlier this morning) combined with new ways to sort through and explore the results it finds. It also features a strong privacy policy based on not storing user data that could be exploited later on:

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.

To judge from the test searches I've conducted at this site, its primary virtue seems to be an ability to present a broader--but not necessarily more accurate--set of Web links than Google or other big-name search engines. Consider what it offers up in response to a search for "Pegoraro," as compared to what Google finds.

Both sites present similar sets of top-10 links, including a few references to my own work as well as pointers to other people show share my last name (for instance, a pianist in Italy--I suppose I should give her work a listen sometime).

Cuil also provides an intriguing "Explore by Category" box at the top right that provides shortcuts to such additional sets of results as "Cities and Towns in the Veneto" (though that list excludes my great-grandparents' hometown) and "Operatives of the Dirty War" (I now know that Argentina's 1970s military government kidnapped two people named Pegoraro).

Then again, Cuil's first set of links also points to such irrelevancies as a two-line entry on the Internet Movie Database and an obviously fake ringtone-download site.

Cuil also had an embarrassing spell of downtime yesterday.

It's way too early to talk about this as a Google killer, or even as a site that might someday afflict Google with a hangnail--not that the digerati didn't spend an absurd amount of time yesterday chattering away about the possibility in blogs, on mailing lists and in Twitter updates. But Cuil may at least be able to shoehorn its way into the Web-search toolbox as an alternative engine. As I've noted before, Google makes its share of mistakes and can seem downright inept at locating some types of Web information.

If you've got some time today, try out a few searches on Cuil--preferably ones that Google often flubs--and report back here on how well this site did.


By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 29, 2008; 1:53 PM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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Comments

Cuil!

To add their search engine to your firefox search bar, save their search engine description xml to your firefox profile searchplugins directory and restart firefox:

http://www.cuil.com/static/plugin.xml

Does anyone still go to a webpage to start searching??

Posted by: josef | July 29, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Another search engine to check out is eZanga.com. eZanga offers high grade search as well as customized PPC ad campaigns. With eZanga's anti-click fraud technology, Traffic Advisers, fraud is detected real time rather then after the fact, therefore increasing ROI.

Posted by: eZanga_PR_Spec | July 29, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Explore by category has been available at vivisimo for quite a while now.

Posted by: nemo | July 29, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

My assessment: Cuil is a total dud. It regularly pulled up irrelevant results, and I couldn't get it to focus on relevant results. For one search the page said it found over 3000 results, but it only provided one link. Huh?

Furthermore, the images next to the results are not actually associated with them -- this can be the only reason a link to a site mentioning Justin Hall the cartoonist had next to it a picture of Justin Hall the blogger, and sites mentioning Justin Hall the blogger had an image of a drawing by Justin Hall the cartoonist. If the images aren't meaningful, then they are noise. Axe 'em.

Posted by: Tony | July 29, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Boy, I just got a few pages of crap when I searched my name (Sandy Christmus). I realize my name is an odd one, but Google finds me in multiple places with only a few extraneous sites with "Christmus" spelled as the holiday. Cuil gave me several pages of links to sites with multiple hidden misspellings of "Christmas" but nothing relevant.

Secondly, I searched for my business name. I started with a basic "Vienna vet" which brings up my hospital as at least the first 2 links in Google. Cuil...not so much. I ended up having to put in the full name of the hospital and still didn't see my hospital's website on the first 2 pages.

There's no way I'll ever try Cuil again. What's all the hype?

Posted by: Beaker | July 29, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why I would switch. I'd have to see a pretty clear case that it would help me find what I'm looking for faster and easier.

Of course it helps when the site can actually stay up and running.

Posted by: slar | July 29, 2008 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I was not impressed at all. For starters it is slow. If you are unfortunate enough to live in West Virginia which is 49th in broadband or high speed access, you must wait much longer on dial-up because of the pictures. Also while the layout is different it takes longer to scan down to get the meaty articles. Finally, when I cuiled my name and a friend who is internationally know I did not find nearly as many sites. I probably won't use it again.
It couldn't hold a candle to google. The only thing it has going for it is its privacy policy. So if I have clandestine plans for anything that I don't want "big brother" to know I will switch.

Posted by: Pam | July 29, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking about Cuil today and I think it could almost be considered a very successful hoax. I haven't seen this much coverage of a new product launch other than a video game system, Vista, or the iPhone. They have stories about this milquetoast search engine on the front of the business section of most newspapers today. All this for a search engine which is decidedly not as good as the industry leader Google or the countless competitors (Yahoo!, MSN, Ask) already in the market.

Posted by: fletc3her | July 29, 2008 11:23 PM | Report abuse

I think they are going out of their way to keep google people out of their searches. For instance, I have a pretty popular cooking show on Youtube called Cooking for Dads. The videos are also on Yahoo, Myspace and a few others, and I've gotten some good press (USA Today, the Guardian...) so I have a pretty good web presence. but I don't show up at all on Cuil. Maybe because I'm a Youtube partner. I don't know, I just don't believe that the sites which get a lot of traffic for Cooking for Dads would show up before the ones that Cuil listed.

Posted by: rob barrett | July 29, 2008 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Can't find a topless picture of paris hilton through cuil, and there's got to be millions of those on the web.

Posted by: Slim | July 30, 2008 2:39 AM | Report abuse

The pictures they put next each search result are bogus. They have absolutely nothing to do with the cited link. That in itself is annoying enough to not trust the site. For now, Google still works for me.

Posted by: Tim | July 30, 2008 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Google: please allow users to opt out of privacy info collection. Cuil will improve. When it does, I'm leaving Google. Do no evil?

Posted by: Zzz | July 30, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I went there and tried a number of searches. To put it in 2008 touchy-feely terms, I was underwhelmed. I won't be going back anytime soon.

Posted by: AZMac | July 30, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I found lots of down time too. When I got on it I searched for things I have regularly searched on Google......Cuil found no matches...Google finds lots of 'em. I will try it a couple more times then...adios

Posted by: Tina | July 30, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

My comment: Yuck.

Posted by: Ray | July 30, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

When I frist read about Cuil I thought it would be a very nice addition. But, after trying it for 3 days, on a variety of searches, I have to agree with the previous comments. There was too much hype for a product that does not perform. Some searchs brought up some new links but overwhelmingly the search results were missing LOTS of common links and is no where close to google results. The false pictures bother me too, there is no way to search for recent (there are lots of older citations), and as was noted by others, they are not the only search engine that uses groupings. The only things I liked were the privacy policy and the general attractiveness of the site. I will try it again in a few months after than add more results and make changes based on feedback.

Posted by: Roger | July 30, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

If you're looking for a private search site, ixquick works better than Cuil.

I don't know much about ixquick (http://www.ixquick.com/) but it seems to do a reasonable job, and they claim not to collect any customer information.

Posted by: Tony | July 30, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

None of web stuff is optimized for Cuil. But is easily found on the top 5 engines.

For a heads up on a future search infrastructure see http://isen.org

Posted by: Matthew Theobald | July 30, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

My test for any search engine is to run a search on my name and my partner's name. Google comes up with many references for both of us (we're attorneys) but Cuil could not find a single reference for me and just two for my partner. Cuil isn't cool.

Posted by: Lorraine | July 30, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I tried Cuil and it's early days as there seems to be a massive number of teething problems. Plus, if you type 'Cuil' into your search engine, you get lots of sites critiquing it, where with other engines(Yahoo!, Live, Ask, et al)the site itself is the first on the list.
Google seems to have become a generic word for search engine, on a lot of sites you get people talking about 'googling' something when really they mean using a search engine. Personally, am not a Google fan because it has been swamped by sponsored links and tons of adverts. I use Dogpile or Ask.

Posted by: Jessica | July 30, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

VERY good review. I absolutely love Cuil's interface. It's very pleasing to the eye. But the search engine algorithm seems designed to pull up the most obscure references to your search term possible. Maybe that's the point - to produce vastly different results from anything else. :-)

The image issue is a big problem though. Some of the random photos that get linked to certain listings are just scary! I shared some examples of it on my blog (http://dube.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/cuil-is-epic-fail/), including a female photographer friend who somehow ended up with a photo of a bearded man next to her website listing!

I hope they fix the image issues soon!

Posted by: Stephanie Dube | July 30, 2008 10:48 PM | Report abuse

After running the site through repeated tests for the past couple days, I was quite impressed to see the site actively learning things... search queries with disappointing results (or no results) in the morning had improved listings as soon as lunchtime.

No doubt it needs some time to get rolling, but I expect we'll see significant improvements over the next few months.

Posted by: Laura | July 31, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I agree with you, Tony, about Ixquick.com. The big think I like about it is that you can leave your search results intact. If you click on a hit, it opens a new window. I hate having to redo my search after getting carried away following links and looking at something I wasn't even searching for. With Ixquick I can do that without having to do a new search. I only use another search engine with I think there is something out there but Ixquick doesn't find what I am looking for.

Posted by: Walt | July 31, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Not a comment on performance, but as far as I know "cuil" means "corner" in Gaelic. "Fios" means "knowledge." Perhaps the failure to find the correct word is an indication of what to expect from this search engine?

Posted by: Marie | August 1, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Let us hope Cuil development is continuous and improving. It needs work. Here's my data point:

I used Cuil to follow-up on Rob's KAYAK vs American Airlines positing and got a lot of information regarding Kayaking in places American Airlines services. GOOGLE however nailed my request - multiple references to the decision by AA to change its relationship with KAYAK. In both cases I used a single line search.

Posted by: Doug | August 1, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Cuil found my website on the first, second, and third pages, including multiple pages within the site.
www.schoolofabraham.com

First time I've used it, though.

Posted by: Cataula | August 2, 2008 10:51 PM | Report abuse

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