culling through “cuil”


I read some buzz about cuil, the new search engine that does things differently than Google. For starters, it doesn’t rank pages based on popularity (incoming links). Rather, it claims to do it based on content and relevance. How they do this is not clear to me, but then, the algorithms Google uses are proprietary as well, I believe (assuming they weren’t in Larry Page’s thesis at Stanford). Anyhow, cuil generated some negative publicity for itself because of server issues, but it worked fine for me just now. The search results aren’t organized in one column that scroll down the page, but in 2-3 columns with graphics pulled from each search result. The end product is somewhat more appealing, but I’m not sure it’s more useful. For starters, the results still require a bit of scrolling (though not as much as Google), but since results are placed in columns, you have to still go back and forth to some degree unless you took it all in before you scrolled down. The placement of the links for downstream pages are on the lower left side, which I found a bit cumbersome, although perhaps with more use it will be second nature. One nice touch—the search field has dropdowns that can populate it:

But in terms of search results, there are some limitations compared with Google. While cuil claims to have more Web pages than Google at its fingertips, just try typing “restaurant near 19446” or any other zip code and you get an error page with zero results, because unlike Google, cuil’s logic doesn’t understand how to parse this and get a result. There is also no tie-in with a map function, again unlike Google. 

And while “cuil” means knowledge in Old Irish, I can’t understand why they didn’t just call it “cull” since that’s what a search engine does anyway, no? At first I thought their site was down, since I kept trying to find http://www.cull.com.

I’ve seen many good search engines come and go (remember AltaVista?—I used to love that one. And Northern Light?). While Google is far from perfect, and I’m glad that unlike Google, cuil does not collect any personal information as best I can tell, in terms of real utility and value, I still find Google much more attractive. I’ll keep trying both to decide which works best for me, but as of today, I wouldn’t be too worried about the folks working in Mountain View at Google.