November 4, 2010
Cuil We Hardly Knew Ye
Has anyone use the search engine Cuil lately? Probably not. That's because it unceremoniously shut down on September 17th of this year. I would not have known but for the fact that someone asked me in reference to a lecture I gave a while back. The person wanted to try it out and the address, www.cuil.com, returned nothing, not even a 404 error page. Talk about going out of business.
The search engine lasted a little over two years. It was considered a possible threat to Google because of the pedigree of its founders. These were ex-Google staffer Anna Patterson and her husband Tom Costello. Time Magazine notes that Patterson developed the TeraGoogle indexing system and Costello developed search engine systems at Stanford and IBM. Can these two do a better job than Google? Whether they could or did is moot at this point. I understand that Beta was better as well, and one of Sony's more spectacular failures.
Cuil's claim to fame was ranking results based on content rather than popularity. It had a few quirks in the early days. I remember testing it then with particular words that would have identified unique web sites, none of which came up in the first results. I dismissed the site at that point, but made a habit of testing it from time to time. It improved in its coverage and accuracy. The problem, though, was that Google wasn't necessarily better, but it was good enough. It was always there and it gave me what I wanted. Now that Yahoo is out of the race, Bing is the only realer challenger to Google in the mass-market search land. Bing has made some headway for market share but nothing that has Google quaking in its boots. At least not yet. Microsoft, though, is known for spending money for the long haul even when the long haul produced no significant market impact. See the Zune media player, for example.
For that matter consider the new search engine entrant Blekko. It's just gone public and its getting a lot of positive attention in the press, just as Cuil did when it appeared. Some of the content is user rated, and it tries to eliminate spam by design and organization. It also offers information about a web site, than merely offering it as a link result. It's worth a try, but I'm not sure if it will appeal to a mainstream audience any more than did Cuil. My own quick test shows that it brings up my unique test web sites and impressively lists most of their content in subsequent results. The search result page noticeably has no ads. I'm not sure if it will displace Google in the search engine world market, though I suspect that isn't the goal. Good luck with that if it is. [MG]