Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cuil- New search engine on the block

Yesterday, I came across this news item that talked about a new threat to Google. It talked about the launch of Cuil (pronounced as "cool")-- a new search engine that has the power to challenge Google. The feature that struck me was that this search engine company was started up by former Google employees. At once, I decided to check it out.

When you get on to the website, what strikes you is the small text box where you are supposed to type your search. The text box should have been larger and more prominent. Cuil has the feature of searching while typing. That is, as you type, it starts suggesting the complete term that you might be looking for. The search results are shown in a table format, that carries a brief description of the matter on the website, along with its link below. A new feature is "Explore by category". This column appears on the right hand top corner and allows you to search as per the categories formed by Cuil. For e.g., typing "Lata Mangeshkar" results in categories like "Indian Film Singers", "Hindi Language Films", etc. These form a drop down list and you can select from them too.

While Google ranks Wikipedia pages at a high level, Cuil doesn't seem to do so. In many searches, the Wikipedia link appears at second row, first column position. While Cuil claims to be the world's biggest search engine, it is not able to dish out relevant results for simple searches. For e.g., my advisor has a webpage for more than five years. On Google, type his name and his website comes out first in the search results. However, Cuil fails to throw any results pertaining to my advisor's name. It throws only one result related to some patent he had filed three years ago. I have not tried any complex searches, but I doubt whether Cuil will be able to give relevant results. For this, their indexing has to improve tremendously.

Cuil has not as yet been fully launched. To submit a website for indexing, the webmaster needs to send an e-mail to Cuil. This feature may get automated in the future. It also lacks various specialised features that Google currently provides (Google Scholar, Books, Groups, etc.). The positive feature is that Cuil doesn't collect any data a-la Google to "enhance" user experience. So, privacy of users is protected.

By and large, Cuil appears to be a good player, and would be promising enough if it improves in the near future. But today, it is nowhere near to Google in terms of the relevance of search results. If it grows well, it might get swallowed up by Mircosoft or Yahoo to fend off competition. Or vice-versa. You never know!!
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