Is Cuil really cool?


I was reading a few sites today and found that Anna Patterson, former Google employee (architect?) and her husband Tom Costello are launching a search engine called Cuil (pronounced "cool"). My first impression is not that I am not that impressed.
 

Relevance

 
I ran a few searches on Cuil and Google. The Cuil search consistently got more pages, when it did not give me a "search produced no results" page. On the other side, many of the top results were pure SPAM. Here is an example. Run McDonalds Disney in both engines. In Google. the top link is "McDonalds Dumps Disney".
 
google.
 
In fact, ther results are as follows (all relevant):
 
  • 6 on Disney dumping McDonalds
  • 2 on Disney, McDonalds and China (labor issues)
  • 1 on Disney and McDonalds, pre split
  • 1 on the Downtown Disney McDonalds

ALL 10 relevant to my search.

The same thing in Cuil results in the following:

cuil

Some impressions here. Wow, that looks great. I like the additional features. If I were an eye candy man, I would be sold. But, I spend too much time preaching proper functionality to let a bit of eye candy steer me. Here are the results

  1. Redirects to http://www.adxtn.com/, a "search" page.
  2. Redirects redirects to http://www.adxtn.com/, a "search" page.
  3. Redirects redirects to http://www.walmart.com/rollbacks?dest=120807&sourceid=03237428460627726046 – an affiliate redirect
  4. Site selling disney toys
  5. Redirects to http://www.adxtn.com/, a "search" page.
  6. Same sales site as #4
  7. Same sales site as #4
  8. Same sales site as #4
  9. directs to http://www.adxtn.com/, a "search" page.
  10. Same sales site as #4
  11. Site selling trains (http://kit.pchot1079.com/anniversary.html)

At least 5 of the links do go to something Disney (no McDonalds), but all are on the same site. Seems like it would be easy to figure out how to fake things to be the top site on this search engine.

Thus far nothing useful to me. So, let’s refine our search and type in Disney Dumps McDonalds, the story I am looking for. Result:

We didn’t find any results for “Disney Dumps McDonalds”
 
As you add words, Cuil begins to find less and less, primary not relevant, so it looks worse. I tried a few searches I know return results and was pleased by most of what Google returned.
 
Result: Google wins hands down.

Kid Friendly?

Ouch! How about we try something a bit more risky and type in "redhead". Google seach finds "red hair" (wikipedia), "redhead", a you tube video, redhead brass, realm of redheads, flickr: "redhead", redhead blog and blonde redhead. Of these, all are probably safe to visit for children. Cuil returns 3 sites on Blonde Redhead, 2 redhead blogs, the redhead public school a redhead lovers site and 5 porn sites. Okay, so Cuil is far less kid friendly than Google.

What about Blonde Redhead (a group)? All links on both google and cuil are relevant.

Lesson learned: Teach kids to search properly.

To be fair, I hit on words like plump and foot, as both are innocent words that can be fetishy, and google faired worse on plump, so there is no 100% kid friendly search amongst the "big boys".

Result: Tie, although on hair color, Cuil serves up far more … (pun intended) 

Speed

Google returns results in a fraction of a second no matter what I am seeking. Cuil can be nearly immediate to agonizingly slow. Perhaps once the slashdotters are finished on it, it will return more quickly?

Result: Google wins hands down

Other

I did some Undernet type of searches and nearly the entire front page goes to sites trying to install software on my computer. The same searches on Google yield safer sites, although many are still garbage. When I say Undernet , I am talking about security searches when you are looking for hacks. I am sure searches for warez and other illegal activities would reveal the same type of pop ups and redirects. Google fared far better in these types of searches, as the first page in Cuil was generally a lot of pages trying to install something on my computer.

Summary

The site is impressive looking. I like the layout of the searches. Finding a relevant search is nearly impossible from my tests. Yours might return something better and perhaps this will improve in the future. Currently I see no reason to use Cuil, unless you want your search results to be a bit prettier than Google. Considering SPAM is very often the first page of links, I would find it exasperating to find a good hit. I will not switch.

There is also the bug of not getting results one minute and tons of results the next. I think this might be related to traffic and I really hope they are getting slammed, as if this is a light day, the scalability sucks.

My suggestions for Cuil (if they care)

  • Focus less on hype (we catalog more pages than Google) and more on quality searches
  • Determine why the engine fails on searches that later work
  • Cull out the SPAM (any search phrase with is before it is probably SPAM hsdfas is Disney McDonalds seems to always lead to garbage)
  • Find out why the search engine falters for a long time

I would also recommend not press releasing the world until you get slammed up against the wall a few times by us geeks. We will probably give you a second chance. The world probably won’t.

Peace and Grace,
Greg

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One Response to Is Cuil really cool?

  1. Kelly says:

    well said and an excellent review. After following along with what you said I have to agree.

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