Monday, July 28, 2008

Five reasons Cuil won't kill Google...yet

Commentary: Search challenger faces huge odds

By MarketWatch
Last update: 10:12 a.m. EDT July 28, 2008
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Privacy advocates and proponents of greater competition will be relieved to know a rival to Google's search engine has finally appeared.
Cuil, pronounced "cool," debuted Monday, promoting itself as offering searches of three times as many web pages as Google and 10 times as many as Microsoft.
The company says "With Cuil, your search history is always private." It argues that it will analyze the web, rather than the people searching it. Ouch! Take that, you Google people!
The Cuil search paradigms were developed by a husband and wife team: Tom Costello and Anna Patterson, former search architect at Google , along with a slew of additional former Google employees.
The site certainly proved popular in the early going, offering periodic error messages, but also quick results when it did work.
But in spite of an apparently ravenous demand for alternatives to Google, any challenger faces daunting obstacles that include the following:
  1. Google got there first, and is friendly enough to consumers to keep them coming back with free email, free photo sharing, free web applications and so forth.
  2. First impressions matter a lot and while Cuil's search results may be better, more complete, or even more aesthetically pleasing, the fact that the site is stumbling in its first day out will leave a lot of potential users unimpressed.
  3. Analyzing searchers may not be popular with the public, but it's insanely popular with advertisers who, after all, are search engines' real customers.
  4. It's unlikely that making search results better, even a lot better, will be enough by itself to capture the attention of users. The Google toolbar is already well established on tens of millions of search browsers.
  5. However dubious Google's privacy protections may be, it has yet to prove evil enough to topple Microsoft in the annals of technological villainy.
Still, if anything will act to curb or break the Google dominance on the web, it will better, faster, cheaper technology. Cuil's got the breeding, but whether it has the strength to go the distance remains to be seen.

1. A new search engine from Ex-Googlers challenges Google

A new search engine with the name Cuil.com launched yesterday. Cuil is an old Irish word for knowledge and it is pronounced "cool". Could Cuil be the new Google killer that so many companies tried to build?

What's special about Cuil?

During the past few years, many search engines have tried to be the next Google. None of them has succeeded. The difference between these companies and Cuil is the team that stand behind the project:

  • Anna Patterson: worked on Google's search index
  • Russell Power: worked on Google's search index
  • Louis Monier: founder of the AltaVista search engine
  • Tom Costello: worked on IBM's WebFountain project.

The team behind Cuil knows search very well and they have worked behind the scenes at Google and other major search providers.

Why does Cuil think that it's better than Google?

Cuil has four major claims with which it wants to distinguish itself from Google:

1. Cuil claims to have the biggest index

Cuil claims that its index is bigger than Google's and that this is necessary if you want to return relevant results for topics that aren't very popular.

2. Cuil thinks that popularity is not as important as Google says

If Cuil's concept of indexing succeeds, PageRank and linking might be a thing of the past. Cuil thinks that popularity is useful but not for very complex searches.

According to their website, Cuil tries to analyze the content of web pages and to put it into a greater context.

3. Cuil uses a new results page format

CuilInstead of a long list, Cuil returns the results in three columns and it adds images to the search results when possible.

Cuil also offers roll-over definitions and offers ideas to refine your search.

4. Cuil does not collect user data

In contrast to other search engines, Cuil does not log any personally identifiable information. IP addresses, names or cookies are not stored.

That means that user data cannot be turned over to others. AOL published private user information in August 2006 and Google currently has to turn over massive amounts of user data to Viacom.

Are the results really better than Google's?

In our test searches, Cuil returned quite good results. Whether they are better or worse than Google's results probably depends on the query and the needs of the searcher.

Cuil seems to understand the different meaning of words. For example, if you search for "tiger" then Cuil will return results for the animation, the operating system with that name, the golf player and companies with that word in the name on the first result page.

It's hard to tell whether Cuil will be a Google killer or not. There's more to it than simply having a large index and good search results. If that was enough, Yahoo would have a much bigger market share.

Google already did a blog post in reaction to Cuil so the new search engine seems to be something that Google gives a lot of attention.

Cuil is already supported by IBP's Top 10 Optimizer. If you want to want to get a deeper insight on how Cuil ranks web pages, just analyze your website with IBP's Top 10 Optimizer. Of course, IBP's Top 10 Optimizer also works with Google and it will tell you what you have to do to optimize your pages for Google's ranking algorithm.


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