New Search Engine Cuil Tries to Take on Google

New Search Engine Cuil Tries to Take on Google

Microsoft and Yahoo aren't the only companies looking to compete with Google in the search business. In fact, this morning a new startup called Cuil opened its virtual doors for the world to start using its search engine. So, on this morning we ask, how is Cuil different from all other search engines? The site claims:

"Cuil (pronounced COOL) is a search engine that combines the largest Web index with content-based relevance methods, organized results, and complete user privacy. The company's next generation approach to search is the result of proprietary breakthroughs in search architecture and ranking algorithms."

Ciul claims to have an index of 120 billion pages, which it states is "three times more than any other search engine." We have no reason to doubt this claim, but in our limited hands-on with Cuil this morning, Cuil often either turned up fewer results than Google or no results at all. (For instance, separate searches for the words "cpu," "hamlet," and "quagmire" turned up no results.) As the site is new, the empty results could be a function of first-day bugs or user overload. (Although, curiously, while searching for "French" turned up no results, "French bread" produced 250 results. Searching for "French bread" on Google produced 1,520,000 results.)



Unlike Google's PageRank approach to ranking pages by perceived importance (or "popularity" as Cuil calls it), Cuil claims to rank "results by the content on each page," while examining the context of the search term on the pages:

"Cuil searches the Web for pages with your keywords and then we analyze the rest of the text on those pages. This tells us that the same word has several different meanings in different contexts. Are you looking for jaguar the cat, the car or the operating system?"

For instance, when we searched for "French bread," the results page included tabs with more context-specific examples of our search, such as "French Bread Recipe" and "Sourdough French Bread." Also, an "Explore by Category" panel was on the results page with subject-related topics such as "New Orleans Cuisine" and "American Sandwiches."

 
 Click on the image above to see the full-sized image.
The other big claim of Cuil is user privacy. Here is what Cuil says on its Privacy page:

"Privacy is a hot topic these days, and we want you to feel totally comfortable using our service, so our privacy policy is very simple: 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... Your search history is your business, not ours."

If Cuil's data-mining algorithms turn out to be superior to Google's, users would no doubt flock to anything that shows better performance for any kind of search. But infrastructure means a lot in any business, and Google has a lot of people invested in using it for all sorts of things, from e-mail to checking the weather, so Cuil has an uphill climb even if it is a better search engine.

Cuil was founded by husband and wife Tom Costello and Anna Patterson:

"Mr. Costello researched and developed search engines at Stanford University and IBM; Ms. Patterson is best known for her work at Google, where she was the architect of the company’s large search index and led a Web page ranking team."

Costello is from Ireland and claims to have based the name of the site on the Gaelic word Cuil, for which one if its meanings is "knowledge." Costello and Patterson certainly have a strong search pedigree, and as such might very well have the necessary knowledge to successfully take on Google.

--Additional reporting by Gregory Sullivan

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The fact that your search for "french bread" only returned 250 results MAY not be a bad thing. :) Filter out the porn sites returned in Google's results and the 1.5 million hits should go down a bit. :) I am curious, did you use any filtering on either site?

I read somewhere that she was a LARGE part of Google when she was there, so I have high hopes for this.

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investment opportunity anyone? :P

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Indeed.

I checked and I got 27 million hits for "CPU"

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on a second note though, if there is no identifiable information, i.e. IP, then how do they track you to keep your "safe search off" option?

and yes i got over 115 million results for french

oddly enough the right arrow works better than clicking the numbers directly, i do hope they have a place to submit bugs :)

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good luck, cuil!!!!

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hmmm why was my comment deleted? I posted this as soon as i read this article this morning and was the first to reply. I find it odd since what i said was no where in the wrong, just pointing out a severe limitation of the search engine.

type in 9800GTX+ and you get no results but type in 9800 GTX + you get the results that should have come up when you put in the former. I find it sad that ex google employees would not have such a BASIC feature working in their search engine.

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I think your being a bit harsh Drago as this is in it's infancy. Bugs happen to every tech company. What separates them is how they are handled. The lady had a big role in the Google we have all come to love.

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do you forget when google first started?

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i remember your comment drago and i tried to do that myself and its true the search engine does have bugs. i will be still using google for a long time to come.

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we had duplicate news posts, and merged them, and lost the first two comments in the process...sorry guys...

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Cool, This first time I've heard about this search engine.

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that search engine has so much glitches that "lilo" i'm not saying it because i work with google but Jesus! there is even an video in cnn about some techey bashing on it! that is bad publicity...

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I installed the search engine on firefox it was auto and asked me when I clicked the link here that a positive in my book having an auto extension for the newest firefox and it just came out seems they like my fave browser as much as me

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Ooh, it's black. I like that.

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Lev i bet you liked the IBM aptiva back in 94?

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When searching for myself on Google, I come up as the second result.

When searching on Cuil, yesterday there were no results at all. Today I am not even on the top 5 pages.

And since I shamelessly admit that ego factors greatly into which I prefer, Google wins.Stick out tongue

Apart from that though, it almost seems that the Internet has morphed itself to work according to Google’s methods and algorithms. With everyone having gone on massive linking sprees in order to boost their page rank as well as the sheer volume of sites that have adsense incorporated, Google is more like the engine that drives the Internet instead of a mere search engine.

It’s going to take some pretty slick tricks to dethrone Google and I don’t see Cuil doing it. Still, competition is always good for us.

It will be interesting to see how Google reacts if Cuil puts up a good fight. Google's motto is 'Don't be evil'. We'll see how they behave when someone starts taking territory away from them.

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