Genetically Superior

Better than Google? by Kevin
July 28, 2008, 9:14 am
Filed under: Technology, Written by Kevin | Tags: , , , ,

Today, Monday July 28th, 2008, a new search engine called Cuil launched as direct competition to current search mega-giant Google. Cuil (pronounced “cool”, not “kwee” like I imagined) works entirely differently than Google, relying on the context of a website rather than number of inbound links.

First Impression

Looking at it side by side with Google, Cuil has a much more modern, sleek appeal, mostly because of its black background and royal blue logo. Google changed the whole idea of search when it launched, instead of filling the page with text and links like Yahoo!, it simply had a search box and a small row of links below. This simplicity was definitely one of the things that led to Google’s initial success.

Once you actually start using Cuil, the similarities end. The first thing you notice is Cuil offers search suggestions that update as you type; this is a tool I find both attractive and useful (and is why I am in love with Firefox 3’s “awesome bar”).

Now I wanted to test which site brought more relevant and useful information, I used “Beijing 2008” as my test query. Google’s results were very familiar, with the official Beijing 2008 Olympics website on top followed by the International Olympic Committee, news stories, etc. This was essentially what I expected from Google, relevant results which could answer any of my questions. Could Cuil do any better? Cuil’s results were initially a little daunting. I was presented three columns with a list of 11 results and an “Explore by Category” box. The first few results were the same, listing the “official” sites, but this is where the similarities end. No Wikipedia entry, often Google’s top result, no news stories, and, most notably, no “Sponsored links” box. Cuil’s results produced a schedule of Olympic events and venues, information on the torch relay, as well as travel information. It is difficult to say whether this is more useful than Google or not, but it is compelling.

I must admit I admire Cuil for even trying to take on such a juggernaut. Google is one of the biggest companies in America and one of the most progressive companies on the web. Everyone loves them. Their products always work as described, their services are almost always free, and on top of that they have some of the best PR in the biz; they are one of those seemingly untouchable companies. But Cuil makes lofty claims that they index three times as many pages and their engine is faster.

Whether these claims are true or not, Cuil definitely has a lot of work ahead of them, even it is better it will be difficult to pull users away from Google. Saying “Cuil it” lacks the same ring as “Google it.” It will also be interesting to see how they plan to draw a profit. Monetizing search is difficult, Google has done very well using “Sponsored links” but most of their revenue is drawn from Adsense. It will also be interesting to see how Cuil plans to expand and match Google’s massive amount of processing power within its multi-million dollar datacenters.

Google is way more than just a search engine for me, it is central to much of the time I spend on the internet. This is where Cuil will need to expand and offer better e-mail services, mapping services, image searching, etc. Only then could it compete directly. I say try it out, but I won’t be making a switch anytime soon.