A new search engine appears: will you use it?

Tonight a new search engine showed up. Techcrunch has the details. So do tons of other blogs. Search engine guru Danny Sullivan has a great post about the new engine, Cuil, (pronounced “cool”). I wasn’t pre-briefed or anything. Like I said last week I’m trying to get out of the PR game and try to get back to what made me like blogging: sharing information with other users.

So, has anyone figured out a good way to quickly test search engines? I haven’t. Everyone has their own search terms that they use to judge whether or not an engine is interesting.

I remember when I was trying to convince my dad to move from Alta Vista to Google he had a bunch of very specific scientific searches he’d do. He used to love showing me that Alta Vista had more and better results. I kept at it. After about two years he switched to Google too.

Today isn’t like back in the Alta Vista days. Back then there was porn and spam that was showing up in my result sets. Google doesn’t have those problems and usually works for almost anything I search for. When it doesn’t work, I try some of the other engines, or just refactor my search and it almost always works. I can’t remember the last time I was totally stymied by Google.

But, what’s great about the blogosphere is that everyone gets to participate. Look at TechCrunch’s early searches and the comments that are coming in. I, too, think that Cuil is going to face an uphill battle based on my early searches.

On the other hand, let’s give Cuil the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say it actually was a better search engine. I still doubt many people would switch. Why?

Distribution.

Huh?

Well, my Firefox browser has Google built into it. Most people have no idea how to switch it. Most people, on our tests, really don’t understand much of anything except that that little box probably now goes to Google. The Google.

It’s so pervasive of an expectation at this point that many people type URLs into that box. Or, type the word “Yahoo” into that box so they can get to their email and other Yahoo services.

Is Cuil going to be able to get into this game?

No way, no how.

On mobile phones it’s worse. My iPhone has Google built in. No way that Cuil is going to be able to rip out Google and replace that with its own engine.

So, why is Cuil here?

I think it’s a play for Microsoft money. Microsoft needs to get back into the search game, so will continue buying companies to try to get back into the search game. Yahoo, if run by management that’s rational, will probably start doing the same thing.

Look at Powerset. They cashed out early to Microsoft. Cuil probably will do the same thing if it brings enough to the table.

Just for fun, though, and to get back to being a user, let’s try one search:

Barack Obama’s technology policy

I put that into all the search engines without any quotes, just to see which one does the best job. Here’s the result set:

Cuil (gave an error, couldn’t find any results)
Google. (best of the three)
Yahoo. (close to Google, but not quite there)
Microsoft. (by far the worst of the big three, didn’t bring the technology policy up as the first result).

Anyway, I did a bunch of other searches on Cuil and they are trying to be different, that’s for sure, but I didn’t see enough of a need to try it out further.

How about you?

150 thoughts on “A new search engine appears: will you use it?

  1. They seem slower. Have improved relevancy of results but lack some of the bells and whistles that Google has built up overtime E.g “Did you mean” Would use as an addition to google not a replacement at this point

  2. They seem slower. Have improved relevancy of results but lack some of the bells and whistles that Google has built up overtime E.g “Did you mean” Would use as an addition to google not a replacement at this point

  3. They seem to better. Now when I do your Obama search I get a different result every time. Which is consistent with Obama’s message.

  4. They seem to better. Now when I do your Obama search I get a different result every time. Which is consistent with Obama’s message.

  5. 33MM! – a really bad name and we have to scroll DOWN to access a search? Sideways?

    Doesn’t pick up Mac-based urls…interface unpretty…not ready, overly bumptious….sure smells like a Microsoft branding project.

    They’re Kidding, right?

  6. 33MM! – a really bad name and we have to scroll DOWN to access a search? Sideways?

    Doesn’t pick up Mac-based urls…interface unpretty…not ready, overly bumptious….sure smells like a Microsoft branding project.

    They’re Kidding, right?

  7. FWIW: I just did a search on both Cuil and Google for “brrreeeport”. Google now reports 9,590 web pages (down from their two year high of 200,000? Did 190,000 servers suddenly go offline?) with the word, and Cuil reports 9,641 web pages.

    Seems like Cuil is quite competitive with Google’s size.

  8. FWIW: I just did a search on both Cuil and Google for “brrreeeport”. Google now reports 9,590 web pages (down from their two year high of 200,000? Did 190,000 servers suddenly go offline?) with the word, and Cuil reports 9,641 web pages.

    Seems like Cuil is quite competitive with Google’s size.

  9. Maybe someone can look up those original series of blogposts again, so that we all can see the exact experiment and numbers. (Scoble?) But at the risk of being corrected, what I remember is that at the same time that Google Blog Search was reporting 500 or 600 different pages with the word “brrreeeport” on it, Google Web Search was showing something like 200,000 web pages with that word on it. And this was like two days after Scoble originally invented the word — meaning that it didn’t exist on any web page, anywhere, two days prior.

    And since Scoble had asked bloggers to put the word on their blogs, I tend to think that it is more true that 600 blogs suddenly started using the word, rather than 200,000 web pages.

    So let’s generously assume that the real number of pages that contained brrreeeport, two days after Scoble invented the word, was somewhere around 2000. That means that Google was overreporting the size of their index by a factor of about 100. So if this is really the case, and Cuil isn’t lying about their numbers while Google is, then Cuil’s index does appear to be larger.

  10. Maybe someone can look up those original series of blogposts again, so that we all can see the exact experiment and numbers. (Scoble?) But at the risk of being corrected, what I remember is that at the same time that Google Blog Search was reporting 500 or 600 different pages with the word “brrreeeport” on it, Google Web Search was showing something like 200,000 web pages with that word on it. And this was like two days after Scoble originally invented the word — meaning that it didn’t exist on any web page, anywhere, two days prior.

    And since Scoble had asked bloggers to put the word on their blogs, I tend to think that it is more true that 600 blogs suddenly started using the word, rather than 200,000 web pages.

    So let’s generously assume that the real number of pages that contained brrreeeport, two days after Scoble invented the word, was somewhere around 2000. That means that Google was overreporting the size of their index by a factor of about 100. So if this is really the case, and Cuil isn’t lying about their numbers while Google is, then Cuil’s index does appear to be larger.

  11. @Sebastian: Well, Google also recently re-advertised its index size. Just a few days ago, it started bragging about how it had just reached a trillion web pages in its index. Perhaps Google, who had sworn long ago that index size didn’t matter, pre-released that information to try and undercut the Cuil hype? Whatever the reason, both Google and Cuil are now bragging about the size of their indices.

    And since Scoble has already shown that Google lies about these sorts of things, by overinflating the reported numbers (“brrreeeport”), I don’t really see how you can conclude that Cuil’s index doesn’t seem that big, after all.

  12. @Sebastian: Well, Google also recently re-advertised its index size. Just a few days ago, it started bragging about how it had just reached a trillion web pages in its index. Perhaps Google, who had sworn long ago that index size didn’t matter, pre-released that information to try and undercut the Cuil hype? Whatever the reason, both Google and Cuil are now bragging about the size of their indices.

    And since Scoble has already shown that Google lies about these sorts of things, by overinflating the reported numbers (“brrreeeport”), I don’t really see how you can conclude that Cuil’s index doesn’t seem that big, after all.

  13. @jere
    The size of their index is part of their pitch to users. They said to the press that they have the biggest index size.
    Sure it doesn’t matter – relevancy is the most important thing. I wouldn’t care if search engines had only 20 results for each query – as long as these were the relevant results! But Cuil advertises their index size – which doesn’t seem that big after all.

  14. @jere
    The size of their index is part of their pitch to users. They said to the press that they have the biggest index size.
    Sure it doesn’t matter – relevancy is the most important thing. I wouldn’t care if search engines had only 20 results for each query – as long as these were the relevant results! But Cuil advertises their index size – which doesn’t seem that big after all.

  15. Define Epic Failure:

    You launch a search engine to compete against Google, spout off that you have more indexed pages, more relevant results, a better design, and better algorithm, and you name yourself Cuil (pronounced cool). You do a search using the Cuil search engine for the word Cuil, and they don’t even show up in their own search results.

  16. Define Epic Failure:

    You launch a search engine to compete against Google, spout off that you have more indexed pages, more relevant results, a better design, and better algorithm, and you name yourself Cuil (pronounced cool). You do a search using the Cuil search engine for the word Cuil, and they don’t even show up in their own search results.

  17. This is the worst site I’ve ever uses. Porn pop ups immediately while searching. I am at work and porn does not work here. What is wrong with that search engine allowing porn to pop up and I mean it’s ladies from around here.

  18. This is the worst site I’ve ever uses. Porn pop ups immediately while searching. I am at work and porn does not work here. What is wrong with that search engine allowing porn to pop up and I mean it’s ladies from around here.

  19. Cuil has an attractive design. I’m still not convinced of its functionality though. I could see myself using Cuil as something supplemental to Google, maybe, if I can’t find what I’m looking for on Google (since they do come up with fairly different search results).

  20. Cuil has an attractive design. I’m still not convinced of its functionality though. I could see myself using Cuil as something supplemental to Google, maybe, if I can’t find what I’m looking for on Google (since they do come up with fairly different search results).

  21. Mike: AltaVista didn’t have the lockin that Google has today. Try to switch out the search engine on the iPhone, especially on the maps. Go ahead and try, I’ll wait. You can’t. That’s MUCH different than it used to be.

  22. Mike: AltaVista didn’t have the lockin that Google has today. Try to switch out the search engine on the iPhone, especially on the maps. Go ahead and try, I’ll wait. You can’t. That’s MUCH different than it used to be.

  23. A lot of these same arguments could’ve been used to explain why Yahoo or Alta Vista or (insert name of leading search engine circa 2000) would fend off Google. In terms of distribution, plenty of people ignore all of the preloaded crap that comes with a PC and go right to their favorite sites.

    If anyone proved that a simple and better technology could eventually win out, it’s GOOG.

    Not saying Cuil has all that, just the logic behind many of these posts seems ironic given Google’s history.

  24. A lot of these same arguments could’ve been used to explain why Yahoo or Alta Vista or (insert name of leading search engine circa 2000) would fend off Google. In terms of distribution, plenty of people ignore all of the preloaded crap that comes with a PC and go right to their favorite sites.

    If anyone proved that a simple and better technology could eventually win out, it’s GOOG.

    Not saying Cuil has all that, just the logic behind many of these posts seems ironic given Google’s history.

  25. @DianaV:

    “Its giving 102,986 results for scobleizer. as against 1,070,000 in Google.”

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people quote these types of numbers, then conclude that the engine with the bigger number is the better one. First of all, you should look at the experiment that Scoble did a few years ago, with the word “brrreeeport”. One can conclude that Google vastly (and incorrectly) overinflates its numbers. It lies, in other words.

    And even if it didn’t lie, one has to realize that Google will not show you more than the top 1000 results, anyway. What does it matter if there are 100,000 or 100,000,000? If the search engine won’t show you more than 1,000, the two numbers might as well be the same.

  26. @DianaV:

    “Its giving 102,986 results for scobleizer. as against 1,070,000 in Google.”

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people quote these types of numbers, then conclude that the engine with the bigger number is the better one. First of all, you should look at the experiment that Scoble did a few years ago, with the word “brrreeeport”. One can conclude that Google vastly (and incorrectly) overinflates its numbers. It lies, in other words.

    And even if it didn’t lie, one has to realize that Google will not show you more than the top 1000 results, anyway. What does it matter if there are 100,000 or 100,000,000? If the search engine won’t show you more than 1,000, the two numbers might as well be the same.

  27. Robert, you need to read this paper:

    http://research.microsoft.com/~ryenw/papers/WhiteSIGIR2008a.pdf

    I think it answers your questions about what.. and even whether.. there is “a” search engine that you should be using.

    A smart searcher, just like a smart woodworker (for example), understands that there is more than a single tool to get the job done. If you are using only a single engine, you are severely robbing yourself of the best results. No matter what one single engine that is.

  28. Robert, you need to read this paper:

    http://research.microsoft.com/~ryenw/papers/WhiteSIGIR2008a.pdf

    I think it answers your questions about what.. and even whether.. there is “a” search engine that you should be using.

    A smart searcher, just like a smart woodworker (for example), understands that there is more than a single tool to get the job done. If you are using only a single engine, you are severely robbing yourself of the best results. No matter what one single engine that is.

  29. Search is so 1.0, who cares about this anymore?

    The new search is social media. I use blogs or twitter to find the content that people are discussing, which is a really good filter. And the system feeds on itself too. If the people/blogs talking about what I am interested in are not in my list, I will include in my ecosystem so that I can get their input next time as well.

    2 examples of this:
    - search.twitter.com: type a keyword, see who discuss the subject and what their general tweets are about. If they are talking about what you are interested in, follow them and you will get the input as it comes.
    - eCairn: build a list of blogs, start listening, and keep feeding the system. The more you read, the more your ecosystem will be, and the better access to information you will have.

    Now for Google all this is not a huge deal (at least Cuil is not) because Google is about infrastructure these days, rather than search. The real killer Google App is Google Apps, as a way to help companies transition into the new world of online collaboration and online participation. Watch them on this, I see a big wave coming…

  30. Search is so 1.0, who cares about this anymore?

    The new search is social media. I use blogs or twitter to find the content that people are discussing, which is a really good filter. And the system feeds on itself too. If the people/blogs talking about what I am interested in are not in my list, I will include in my ecosystem so that I can get their input next time as well.

    2 examples of this:
    - search.twitter.com: type a keyword, see who discuss the subject and what their general tweets are about. If they are talking about what you are interested in, follow them and you will get the input as it comes.
    - eCairn: build a list of blogs, start listening, and keep feeding the system. The more you read, the more your ecosystem will be, and the better access to information you will have.

    Now for Google all this is not a huge deal (at least Cuil is not) because Google is about infrastructure these days, rather than search. The real killer Google App is Google Apps, as a way to help companies transition into the new world of online collaboration and online participation. Watch them on this, I see a big wave coming…

  31. I have a feeling that even better results wont shift people from Google search now. It’s so much integrated into many things now, Firefox, iPhone ( and sony ericsson phones as well,) heck, even in Opera Mini. Even Safari has Google as default. So unless someone can pay more then Google to replace these defaults ( or become defaults in other important software ) , there’s going to be no harm to Google’s search engine market share.

  32. As soon as I heard about their privacy policy, I switched my home page to Cuil. I am not nearly as concerned about how many search results I get as I am about privacy. As far as Google is concerned, who cares if you get a million hits? Are you going to read all of them?

  33. I have a feeling that even better results wont shift people from Google search now. It’s so much integrated into many things now, Firefox, iPhone ( and sony ericsson phones as well,) heck, even in Opera Mini. Even Safari has Google as default. So unless someone can pay more then Google to replace these defaults ( or become defaults in other important software ) , there’s going to be no harm to Google’s search engine market share.

  34. As soon as I heard about their privacy policy, I switched my home page to Cuil. I am not nearly as concerned about how many search results I get as I am about privacy. As far as Google is concerned, who cares if you get a million hits? Are you going to read all of them?

  35. Tried a few searches and didn’t get anything good out of it. In that regard it is as useless as Mahalo (seriously, does anyone use that crap??!)

    Come to think of it… it’s so much like iPhone I could easily be led to believe it’s an Apple product. Nice on the outside but essentially crap.

  36. Tried a few searches and didn’t get anything good out of it. In that regard it is as useless as Mahalo (seriously, does anyone use that crap??!)

    Come to think of it… it’s so much like iPhone I could easily be led to believe it’s an Apple product. Nice on the outside but essentially crap.

  37. I agree with the “why bother” crowd. Seriously, there are so many more interesting problems out there to solve, does the world really need yet another search engine?

    Robert, you’re absolutely right. This is a play for Microsoft $$$. We have a window of a few months where we’re probably going to see tons of search companies start up with the sole purpose of being bought by Microsoft.

  38. I agree with the “why bother” crowd. Seriously, there are so many more interesting problems out there to solve, does the world really need yet another search engine?

    Robert, you’re absolutely right. This is a play for Microsoft $$$. We have a window of a few months where we’re probably going to see tons of search companies start up with the sole purpose of being bought by Microsoft.

  39. Back in the AltaVista days, search was broken. It took a long time. Now, how often do you really not get what you want on your Google search? Most of us aren’t feeling any search pain. We go to google, get what we want and move on. I tried it out. the layout is neat, it’s a bit smoother UI, but since I don’t have much pain in search and my habits are pretty built in (plus start page, gmail and reader), unless I hear either
    1. just keep hearing people RaVE re Cuil that it’s SO much better
    2 google starts being unreliable

    I am probably not moving

    Like the play for MS $ angle, that’s a good bet.

  40. Back in the AltaVista days, search was broken. It took a long time. Now, how often do you really not get what you want on your Google search? Most of us aren’t feeling any search pain. We go to google, get what we want and move on. I tried it out. the layout is neat, it’s a bit smoother UI, but since I don’t have much pain in search and my habits are pretty built in (plus start page, gmail and reader), unless I hear either
    1. just keep hearing people RaVE re Cuil that it’s SO much better
    2 google starts being unreliable

    I am probably not moving

    Like the play for MS $ angle, that’s a good bet.

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