These days, anyone starting a search-related effort almost certainly has to deal with the G-Factor. Are they trying to take on Google? How are they going to beat that awesome search-and-advertising money machine from Mountain View, Calif.? It is hardly a surprise that Anna Patterson, president and co-founder of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Cuil (pronounced cool), has been fielding those questions from the media, as the company gets ready to launch on Monday, July 28.
The company, which has raised about $33 million in two rounds of founding from Madrone Capital Partners, Tugboat Ventures and Greylock Partners, has been the subject of much speculation in Silicon Valley, mostly because of founders’ (Patterson, Tom Costello and Russell Power) pedigrees — not to mention some well-known search luminaries who have joined the company.
Patterson, for instance, was the technical lead of Googlebase and helped form Google’s TeraGoogle search index. She had worked at Archives.org before joining Google. Costello had developed an early version of WebFountain. Power also worked on TeraGoogle. Former Altavista CTO Louis Monier is also at Cuil. The company had gotten into a spot of bother earlier this year when it started to crawl in what can be described as an ungentlemanly manner, prompting a few thousand sites to ban its crawler. Despite all that, it is still one of the more interesting companies to watch.
During his keynote address at a search industry trade show earlier this year, Monier had noted that “search engines can be used for more than just navigation.” It is becoming increasingly evident that the battle of navigation has been all but won by Google. However, Monier and his cohorts at Cuil are betting that the company can use new information retrieval-and-dissemination technologies to overcome the information overload on the Internet.
My big belief is that “serendipity” is the right way to go as we continue to get immersed (and drowned) in information. From that perspective, Cuil might be on the right track. Patterson stopped by at our San Francisco offices last week to give us a brief overview of the company and how it works.
How it works is that company has an index of around 120 billion pages (which is a lot smaller that what Google claims) that is sorted on dedicated machines, each one tasked with conducting topic-specific search — for instance, health, sports or travel. This approach allows them to sift through the web faster (and probably cheaper) than Google, which still enjoys a huge infrastructure advantage over its rivals. The results of those specific searches are then funneled to the search results page, which looks more like a magazine web site than the search results page we are so used to seeing on, say, Google or Yahoo.
I have no clarity on Cuil’s infrastructure; we couldn’t get into the details because our meeting was quite brief. I do know that while indexing is the easy part, analyzing and displaying all the information is extremely resource-intensive and was one of the main reasons why Powerset took Microsoft’s money.
The search results showed off by the company executives seemed pretty accurate and useful, but since I didn’t get to test them myself, I can’t vouch for their veracity. When I asked Patterson about the challenge of consumer adoption, she countered that most people are willing to try new search services. She feels confident that searching on Cuil will win them over.
71 thoughts on “Cuil Finally Gets Going”
Om — I had heard about Cuil from some friends in the VC community. They kept telling me that it would supplant google in a couple years; I never believed them. But after looking at it tonight, I understand what they are saying. I don’t know if it will overtake google, but it is certainly more understandable and comprehensive than that dinosaur. Thank goodness someone finally had the guts to stand up to them. Good luck to Cuil and anyone else who wants to challenge google. We deserve better.
Their Privacy link is blind. The search results for ‘Cuil Feedback’ were non existent. They’re not going anywhere.
SO TRUE. lol
Relevancy: It works fine for “head” queries e.g. batman, harvard university, new york hotels, etc. but for tail queries “flights sfo to ord” or “san francisco real estate market trends” the relevancy still needs lots of work.
Presentation: While I believe that new UI experiences for search are needed and welcome this multi-column approach is not very efficient — a single column is still be far more efficient way to process information (email, blogs, search engines) have all provent that vertical lists are the most efficient way to process information quickly.
Serendipity: Love this in concept the only product that is doing a fairly decent job at this is techmeme
I thinks Googles index is atleast 10 times bigger than Cuil. Sachin Tendulkar returns 200K pages on Cuil but 2.2 million pages on Google. Even TC says the same for Apple and Dog queries. I personally like the Google format much better than Cuil since it seems very cluttered.
Google doesn’t claim their index is much bigger then 120 billion pages. In their post they say:
“We don’t index every one of those trillion pages — many of them are similar to each other, or represent auto-generated content similar to the calendar example that isn’t very useful to searchers”
It is actually estimated in the tens of billions. So it is actually Cuil that is claiming the bigger index which is obviously wrong. I queried: “Just ask a group of teen internet entrepreneurs” in both, Google gave 283 results and Cuil none..
Cuil is a big failure in its first test. Being in software testing, I searched for “testing life cycle” and the little cuil said “We didn’t find any results for “testing life cycle””
At 9:28am BST the site is down:
We’ll be back soon…
Due to overwhelming interest, our Cuil servers are running a bit hot right now. The search engine is momentarily unavailable as we add more capacity.
Thanks for your patience.
Om , a search for Om Malik throws up a BLANK PAGE. One of the best tech blogger is not found on Cuil. Well begun it is said is half done. But for cuil it is definitely not well begun. And this after all the hype that it generated
Om, according to Cuil you don’t exist.
@Sidharth & @Kris this is rather strange for before going to sleep it was working just fine and there was a very clear search page for “om malik” that was pretty accurate and picked up all the relevant information from across the web. I think they are having first day issues – people writing about them and trying them out. first rule of start-up launch: don’t go bad like a four day old banana on day one.
@Amit Aviv I hope I didn’t give the impression that Google indexed more pages. That said, I think Danny Sullivan is right when he points out that talking about index size is regressive and backward looking. patterson claimed that index is a way to separate one search from another.
http://searchengineland.com/080728-000100.php is a great overview in minute detail by Danny.
Their servers have already crashed… and hey, no, they won’t take on Google…
my review here
Bullshit @ Kris, Sidharth.
A search for om malik turns up:
1,450,442 results for om mailk
Actually the black front page may do well for them if they take off. Good contrast to the whiteness of Google.
Cuil is ok. Not as amazing as hyped up. I did a bit more research and wrote about it today on the blog, shortly after discovering it. They seem to over index and under deliver. I’m sure it’ll improve in time. $33 million in funding, with ex Google employees and a great concept.
But will it kill Google? lol… i v much doubt it!!
Read my full post on Cuil here:
First impression: Cuil not that cool for non-American searches. More here: http://www.narendranag.com/how-cool-is-cuil.php
“Menlo Park, Calif.-based Cuil (pronounced cool)”
Gimme a break – they’re obviously going to crash and burn with such a stoopid name… 😉
I’m really unimpressed – the queries I typed returned spam sites as the first results. Weak.
Well it seems early users have voice their distaste of the new search engine. The name itself does not really fly with me! Is this all part of the crazy thirst to beat google: Searching for the Next Search Engine(http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=466&doc_id=152415&F_src=flftwo)
I tried cuil with a random search, tibet as i am planning on travelling to this country, but apparently the chinese government supports this new search engine as ‘no results’ appeared on my screen…..
Does anyone else think their name is, well, kind of lame? Sure, people said the same thing about “Google” when it launched, but at least you didn’t have to learn how to pronounce (or spell) G-O-O-G-L-E.
I guess Cuil has to be more innovative to take on Google. However, to be more wiser, I guess they should concentrate more on giving more to the public – what they want and what they seek, rather than extensively focusing on beating Google. The subject here is better results for people, and not beating Google. That will happen eventually, once better search result system is developed.
Good Luck Cuil! And Google has no reason to panic, as long as it gives public what public wants, Google’s safe….
@Happy please give me your email id. I will mail the screenshot to you. I am also giving below the flickr link http://www.flickr.com/photos/11826359@N07/2711020426/. Go check it out. We have better work than posting wrong comments
well i went to check CUIL out & i think they r beginning with some problems… perhaps due to traffic, etc.
i had trouble loading HOME page, etc. & it’s been S-L-O-W.
i should further point as others have alluded to, that i wonder if there’s some ‘blocking’ of CUIL going on?! & yeah, i don’t like the name either…
I just ran a few test searches on CUIL. I was disappointed with the relevance of the results to the search terms. No matter what kind of slick interface is used, the most important feature of a search engine is the accuracy of the results… that’s why Google dominated the competition to begin with… Google has always been a plain-looking site, with almost no bells or whistles… but do you remember searching before Google? I remember searching through page after page of results because so few of the results were relevant.
Cuil will get far better than what Google is today in about 5 years. Okay, perhaps 2.
Who cares? What are we searching for anyway? How about searching for peace, eliminating poverty, racism, injustices. We know where they are?
Help us refine it Cuil. Perhaps then, you will be worth all this trouble.
I like it. The interface is clean. A little slow,however, and not very relevant info was produced.
Well I think Google would be beaten. I know Microsoft and Yahoo would be stocking their arsenals now with enough ammunition for a respectable bid. I just think Cuil will hold onto break new grounds. We have got some sort of competition at last.
You know I always though Microsoft’s’ bid for Yahoo was quite half hearted, Its all making some sense now.
According to their “Your Privacy” page Quote “We do not keep logs of our users’ search activity. unQuote.
Here’s an amusing visual take on the “new search showdown” 😉
The search phrase “cuil sucks” has reached 35 on Google’s Hot Trends list.
I don’t see this one beating Google. How is that going to happen? Moreso, i have been trying to use it and i couldn’t because it is not responding. The owners, based on their experiences,should have known that a lot of traffic will come since it is heavily adverstised. As a matter of fact, i heard through CNN.
Have been trying Cuil for a few hours and will continue to compare to Google.
So far Google appears more relevent.
Does Cuil search by date? What Boolean commands does Cuil accept?
Cuil has been awful for me so far. As an internet marketer, I’m searching for my clients and not one of them is getting a #1 ranking for their own name – and they all DO on Google.
Not only that, but (many times) confusing images are appearing next to the search results that don’t even associate with the sites they’re linking too.
I call crap on this engine so far unless they fix something major.
Sorry, but Cuil, no matter how you pronounce it, is DOA. I entered a query and got not a single relevant response from Cuil, then tried Google and everything from the first item to the last one were directly relevant to my query. DOA. Toast. Not worth it. I will not even bother trying this one again.
Search for “Cuil” on cuil returns nada as far as the company itself goes…
meanwhile, search for “Cuil” on google returns top 3 valid resullts + news items on Cuil’s launch
@all…. sorry guys i was out reporting for another story today and basically missed all the noise and fury around this company. as far as launches go, this company got all the hype it needed but wasn’t prepared for it.
our readers are saying – this isn’t going to pan out. That is saying something. 47% of you are giving it a thumbs down. Interesting. My user experience on the company is pretty mixed thus far – sometimes results show up, and other times they don’t.
Anyway lets see how many people are using the service a month from now.
I say this is a complete failure. Another $33 million of investment has gone down to the drain … 😛
Its okay but not great. They say they have indexed 3 times more pages than google. I searched for “Adolf Hitler” and it returned no result 🙂
The homepage looks clean and eco-friendly (see Blackle) but the search results page looks a little odd. Seeing so many columns on the search page was a bit confusing to me. I like the idea of displaying images next to the search results but some of them on Cuil were irrelevant.
Cuil is cool. But i h=guess it will be premature to say that it will give tough time to google. Google has got place in the heads of people, whenever they search, its the first thing that come to their minds.
I searched my webistes with my name as a keyword on Cuil and couldn’t get desired results. Google is still ahead and better. I shall continue using my fav Google.
Amzing search engine! Try searching cuil over this search engine and you would be amazed to see the results. These are no links in the search result that will take you to cuil.com lol
I have found news about Cuil on http://www.hurricanesoftwares.com/2008/07/28/ex-google-engineers-launched-cuil-a-better-search-engine/ and i turned to GigaOm to find what others are saying about it.
By the way i tried “Adolf Hitler” in Cuil and found very good result it shouldn’t be searched by “AdolfHitler” i suppose.
I think Cuil doesn’t have the word processing and dictionary like algorithm’s yet but i am sure they will improve soon.
Lets see how far Cuil go where Google have the monopoly when it comes to search engine market.
I’ve tried about four searches on topics I know well and got pretty skewed results. Then it occurred to me to google, er — CUIL my own field in which I come up at TOP of Google: HANDWRITING ANALYSIS SAN FRANCISCO.
It brought up 9 KANSAS handwriting/graphology sites as well as one site for a “spiritual healer,” and this crazy site, osidjfios11df.angelfire.com/handwri…, whose subheadings are all possible misspellings of “handwriting” and started to INFECT my computer with three viruses, one a “fatal”! So look out, folks.
And CUIL.com is using the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley PEDIGREE of their officers as credibility???? Only Dorothy and Toto would offer 9 KS sites when San Francisco was specified!
When a friend asked today if I’d heard of the new search engine at first I thought it was kind of cute for my purposes as a handwriting expert, cuil = quill? Then I found that it’s pronounced COOL. That’s beyond stupid. With their precious little blue “i” it appears they’re trying to hitch their wagon to Steve Jobs’s iTrain.
Relax Google, and just keep on getting better all the time. I’m proud to tell people that I provided entertainment for one of your company parties.
Chair of the Graphological Socity of SAN FRANCISCO
Like everybody else, I noticed that cuil hasn’t picked up a lot of things and that they are picking up weird and wacky pictures to accompany the results. Since they are testing, it probably will get better. Like anything else though, technology will keep marching on and I am sure google is working on something in their labs as well. Hopefully down the line we are the ones who will benefit from this and it won’t deteriorate into search engines that will only send whatever has the most paid advertising behind it.
It seems that Cuil has indexed more pages on Internet but to show the relevant information they have to do a lot more.
I just searched my name on Cuil, they could not find any of my presence on web even at 10th search page, not even my facebook or my own website where yahoo and google get it on first page. Cuil is googled!!! See you in next life.
CUIL is far from “cool” as it can’t find a single link to my decade-old website or any of its several hundred pages and dozens of videos. I doubt that my site’s apparent non-existence is a singularly unique case – and assume the CUIL system isn’t yet capable of basic internet retrieval.
There are a lot of sites on the web where people are all excited about Cuil. They like the interface, like the privacy, etc.
But at the end of the day a search engines most important functions is.. well.. search. And here Cuil is just not there.
A quick search for “Cisco mars reports” brings up links for the European Space agency, several news sites, and ONE link for … Cisco mars. Without the use of operators the search is worthless.
Cuil is a big failure in its first test. Being in software testing, I searched for “testing life cycle” and the little cuil said “We didn’t find any results for “testing life cycle””…….