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New search engine Cuil is underwhelming

I have been reading about this new search engine Cuil that is supposedly the biggest search engine on the web, even bigger than Google. It has been billed by some as a “Google Killer”. I think one of the reasons it’s getting so much publicity is because it is run by a team of former Google employees.

The first thing you will notice about Cuil is its unorthodox appearance. The main page is black and the search is centred in the middle.

cuil search

The next thing you will notice is the results page which is broken into columns. Under the FAQs section of the site one of the questions is “Why do you display search results in columns?” and the answer is.

It’s easier to read text when it’s in columns. That’s why publishers of densely written text like newspapers and family bibles use them. You can switch between using two and three columns by clicking on the link at the bottom of the results page.

I have to disagree with this. The web is not print. The reason publishers cram densely written text into newspapers and books is because they are dealing with limited space and paper costs money. Most papers are also huge and would be impossible to read in one long sentence. Neither of these are a factor in the online world. There is no need to cram everything onto one page and I just find it confusing, but maybe I am alone in this. I believe horizontal panes are much easier to read and much more scalable. Columns do have a place on the web, but I don’t think it’s working here. Lets not forget about hand held devices that have very small and narrow interfaces. I know most sites have mobile versions, but as mobile browsers get better people will start using the regular web interfaces and not the stripped down mobile versions.

Cuil Results

So far everything I’ve talked about is cosmetic, what about the actual search; because really that’s what it comes down too isn’t it? Google is huge because it’s interface is easy to use, but more so because the engine finds what we want.

My first test on Cuil was my own name, maybe I’m narcissistic but no more so than all you Facebookers out there. The shot above is the search of my name; unlike Google it didn’t find much. Again I find the interface very confusing, the columns are not helping ease of use at all in my opinion. I did see one snippet of text from my blog, but when clicking the image and link I was taken to some link farm. Another user on Slashdot commented that they had searched their name and found their blog with an image saying “My success with Scientology”. He further went on to say he was not a scientologist.

Earlier in the day some searches were bringing up a message saying the server was too busy, yet more simplistic searches like “cat” would work just fine. A search like cat does yield more interesting results.

cuil results cats

Now this is where it gets a little more interesting. At the top you get tabs with things like “Cats and Dogs”, “Cats & Dogs” (what’s the difference?) and Siamese Cats. There is a more tab and then down the side their are categories. Some of this is really reminding me of a web directory, only done web 2.0 style. I also typed in Javascript and the breakdown was really nice. For broad topics like this the engine displays a nice list of sites and categories, the problem is most of my searches are nothing like this. I don’t search for Javascript. I search for something like “jquery postal code form validator” which yields a whopping zero results in Cuil while yielding 27,200 in Google.

Okay, lets try something a little less niche. Maybe my cat is not eating so I run to Cuil to do a search on “cat not eating”. What do I get? I get the list below.

  • Re: Hatchlings Still Not Eating – Please Help!
  • Why is My Betta fish Not Eating and Stays at the top …
  • Re: Sulcata Not Eating Help!
  • Python Not Eating
  • Re: Python Not Eating
  • Baby Sinaloen Milk Snake Not Eating!!
  • Re: Box Turtle Not Eating
  • Rat Snake Not Eating
  • Re: Python Not Eating

cuil cat searchWhat’s with the reptiles? I was searching cats? None of the pictures are snakes either. What gives? See a full size shot.

Now lets see what Google made of “cat not eating”.

  • Cat Not Eating
  • Yahoo! Canada Answers – Cat not eating – is it the heat?
  • cat not eating – Pet forum for dogs cats and humans – Pets.ca
  • My Cat Is Not Eating And I Need Help
  • Ask Cat Not Eating Questions Questions
  • Cat not eating – Pet Health Forums

Yep, no snakes on that list. Cuil did manage to get an extra three search results onto my page though, but none were on cats unfortunately. Final verdict from me is a major failing grade. Cuil has got a long ways to go before it can be dubbed a “Google Killer”, it may be the biggest or have the most features, but if I find snakes when I’m looking for cats there is a problem. Lets hope these are just a few bugs that need to be ironed out, but really, first impressions can be everything.

One Comment to “New search engine Cuil is underwhelming”

  • xHydra

    I agree with you, the search engine cuil is only riding on the fact that it was created by former google employees.

    Cuil proves that VC’s and startups are increasingly hard pressed in finding new fresh concepts to exploit