Ezra -ez- Nugroho’s blog

Cuil ain’t no cööl

Posted on | September 24, 2008 | No Comments

This month we are celebrating Google’s 10th anniversary, so let’s celebrate it by writing a review about Cuil.

Why do people beat a dead horse? I often wonder… Anyway…

Cuil was launched close to two months ago, with great fanfare, boasting as the world’s largest search engine. Cuil claims to have an index of 121 billion web pages. More than the large index size, Cuil also overs 4 search features, which includes categorical search (drilldown), roll-over definitions on categories, tabs (which is also categorical search), and search-term suggestions. Another differentiating factor they offer is total privacy.

I did a few test search in the past, basically the same test set that I used to test I found some hits that I didn’t find in Searchme, especially with my vanity search, and with esoteric scientific search. I guess this is real benefit in having a really big index. However big index poses a problem for searches with terms that are common. You are faced with just too many results. This is basically the problem that has to be solved by any search engine, and Google’s PageRank does this relatively well.

At launch time, Cuil’s search quality was really terrible, as recorded here. It couldn’t even find itself! Two months later, Cuil has made some improvements, and it does find itself.

I recently tried my pet peeve search term ‘apple’, which is first and foremost a fruit. Cuil has no mention of the fruit, neither in the hits, in the categories, nor in the tabs. Google also doesn’t include any fruit mention in the first page, but it mentions apple ‘the fruit’ article from Wikipedia in the second page.

Another major issue I have is with their privacy stance, which says that they don’t want anything to do with my information, IP, Cookie, etc. It’s kinda nice to have your privacy respected, but you know, people also want to have personalized service!! Such service would be impossible with total blind privacy. I was doing a test for ‘computer deals’, and I was offered mostly pages from the UK!! Hey, Cuil, please at least take my IP address, find my locale, and give me information relevant to me. I am in the Bay Area, and when I look for computer deals, I expect pages from local Fry’s, or from Micro Center.

Other than those technical issues, I faces some grim legal risk. Now someone who works for Google please enlighten me. Does Google have a non-compete clause in it’s employment agreement? If it does, what would stop Google from suing Cuil. Two out of the three founders were Google employees working on search technology. Was Cuil indexing technology an idea that Google rejected? Or was it an idea that came out after analyzing Google technology from within? Must I remind them that Google has a very interesting interpretation of Don’t Be Evil?

Paul Graham said that the best way to run a startup is to start small, make small increments, and iterate fast. Cuil started large, really large. I hope they didn’t spend most of their $33 millions to build the index, because they need to fix a lot of things.

Finally, obviously this is not the first bad review that people write on Cuil. There were certainly other ones. There could be more to come. So why would people beat a dead horse? Well, because, I must admit that, it’s kinda fun, and because the horse is unlikely to kick you back.

Side note: A few days ago, Louis Monier, a VP who was also an ex Googler announced his resignation.


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