Opinion: Cuil, Google, and Microsoft

July 28, 2008

Before I go out and feed the geese on my pond in Harrods Creek, I wanted to offer several unsolicited comments about Microsoft, Cuil, and search.

First, now that Microsoft has its own search technologies, Fast Search & Transfer’s search technologies for the enterprise and the Web, and Powerset’s search technologies, does Cuil look cool?

This is a tough question, and I don’t think that Microsoft had much knowledge of the Cuil team and its work ins search. My research suggests that work on Cuil began for real in 2007. The work profiles of the Cuil team is decidedly non-Microsoft. My thought is that Microsoft did not have a competitive profile about this company. My working hypothesis is that this search system struck Microsoft like a bolt from the blue.

Second, will Microsoft buy Cuil? This is a question that will probably garner some discussion at Microsoft. The Linux “heads” at Microsoft will probably resonate with the idea. Cuil incorporates some of the “beyond” Google technology that one can find at Exalead and now at Cuil. The architecture of these “beyond” Google operations might be quite useful to Microsoft. On the other hand, Microsoft is charging forward with its own approach to massively parallel distributed systems that the “beyond” Google engineering would be a touch pill to swallow.

Third, will Cuil get traction? The answer is yes. My hypothesis is that the folks who flock to Cuil will be Google users, but the real impact of Cuil may well be taking orphaned or disaffected users from Ask.com, Live.com, and Yahoo.com search.

The short term impact on Google may be significant for several reasons:

  1. Cuil has poked a finger in Google’s eye with its user tracking policy. Simply stated, Cuil won’t build user and usage profiles that tie to an individual in a stateful session or to an individual assigned to a fine grained group of clusters in a stateless session. See my July August KMWorld feature for more about the data model of this type of tracking.
  2. Cuil hit Google with its larger index of 120 Web pages processed to Google’s 30 to 40 million pages. Keep in mind that size doesn’t matter, but it is a public relations hook that could snare Googzilla around the ankles.
  3. Cuil includes bells and whistles that have not be released on the public Google system. For example, there are snazzier results displays, insets for suggested searches, and tabs to allow slicing results. Google has these features, but the GOOG keeps them under wraps. Right now, Cuil looks cooler (pun intended). The Cuil search page is black which even says “green”. Clever.

Google now has to sit quietly and watch Xooglers implement features that Google has had in the can for years. Interesting day for both Microsoft (Should we buy Cuil too?) and Google (What’s the next step for the Xooglers’ service?).

Stephen Arnold, July 28, 2008


3 Responses to “Opinion: Cuil, Google, and Microsoft”

  1. Seth Grimes on July 29th, 2008 10:29 am

    Stephen, don’t get caught up in the hype. Try Cuil. Perhaps, you’ll find, as I did, that the results suck. I’m talking about the waste-of-space presentation, the listing of highly redundant hits without any form of similarity reduction, *the seemingly random pairing of found images with result items*, and more. Myself, I tried it at 5 am so I didn’t experience the very slow response that others have experienced.

    Cuil was a major mis-launch. Will the company right itself? There are too many short-comings to be confident of that.


  2. Seth Grimes on July 29th, 2008 10:33 am

    Oh, and if you want “Beyond Google,” try Google.com.

    Type in, for instance, 22+33 or “map cincinnati” or “time london”… and you’ll get answers. Same for Yahoo and Live search. Cuil, by contrast, seems to have no conception of the searchers intent, that is, to look for answers to common, *recognizable* questions rather than for hits.


  3. Velvet Blues on July 29th, 2008 1:31 pm

    Yeh, Cuil doesn’t get it. It also appears that Cuil has not heard or Wikipedia or other resource sites. Type in ‘America’ and see what you get.

    In Google, you get a map, and a page on America from Wikipedia, followed by other popular results.

    In Cuil, you get results for AOL and Air Conditioning Contractors of America… Good job.

    Clearly Google is more relevant. And yes, Cuil doesn’t have any special search features. I think they assume that users just want to retrieve pages containing a search term. But that’s only half of it. Users also like when search engines can discern their intent. And that’s what Google, Yahoo, and the other big search engines are able to do.

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