Cuil Is Not the Google Killer It Would Like to Be

5 minute read
Irina Guseva avatar
You’d think that after Google, nobody would even dare to venture into the search engine market. That apparently doesn’t include some former Googlers who launched Cuil - the newest search engine that describes its mission as “to index the whole Internet” and “analyze and sort out its pages so you get relevant results.” Cuil (pronounced “cool”) claims to have a “fundamentally different approach” to search engines due to its new architecture and algorithms. Sounds good in theory, but how does it actually do in reality?Cuil is named after an old Irish/Gaelic word for “knowledge” and may also be connected to the Celtic folklore character Finn McCuill. The company’s motto is “For knowledge, ask Cuil.” However, a simple Google search also shows other meanings of “cuil,” including fly, insect and hazel.Cuil’s press release announcing the launch of “the biggest search engine on the web” is full of statements that only belong in press releases. For instance, they say that Cuil “has indexed 120 billion web pages, three times more than any other search engine." Really? And this is after a recent announcement about Google’s discovery of how big the web actually is. In other words, Google is saying that it can index 1 trillion of unique URLs on the web, even though some of them may be duplicates.What’s even more interesting is that this Google rival was founded by a family of former Google employees: Tom Costello and his wife Anna Paterson. There is also Russell Power, who worked at Google and specialized in web rankings; and Louis Monier, who led design efforts while at Google.

Cuil Top Features

* Extensive web index - 120 billion web pages* Organized results - Magazine-style layout for search results display* Different results – Search results are ranked by content rather then its popularity* Privacy protection – No stored identifiable data, IP addresses or search historiesIn addition to the above, Cuil boasts a ton of other features -- though nothing groundbreaking -- that we will examine more closely.

Search Term Suggestions

While a very typical implementation of a feature employed by many other web vendors, Cuil’s search term suggestions seem to be inline with human logic; but not as detailed and extensive as that of Google’s -- and not necessarily relevant for that matter.

Cuil search term suggestions

Categories and Tabs


Cuil categories


Cuil tabs
Although, Cuil claims that its tabs can be used to clarify and narrow your search appropriately; immediately, we didn’t notice much usefulness of this feature.Cuil names their Categories as “Drilldowns,” highlighting that “Explore By Category” contains a list of subjects related to your search. If you roll-over a category, it will open and show refinements related to your search. If you click on one, Cuil will direct you to this additional information. By looking at these suggestions, you may discover search data, concepts, or related areas of interest that you hadn’t expected. This is particularly useful when you are researching a subject you don’t know much about and aren’t sure how to compose the “right” query to find the information you need.

Search Results Layout


Cuil search results layout
There has to be a good reason to display search results in a magazine spread fashion, we just couldn’t figure out what it is exactly. While providing more detailed results, it just seems like a waste of page space. Perhaps, there would be no need for tabs and categories, if the results were displayed more compactly. But we’ll leave the usability discussion to Jakob Nielsen.

Search Results Relevancy

A search for “Atlanta” returned travel guides and major ATL sports teams, as well as some local newspapers and the Federal Reserve Bank mentioning. Even though it sounds like a stretch, there’s got to be more to Atlanta than what’s reflected in the tabs and the categories box.Additionally, Cuil returned fewer results when Google for the same search phrase: 206,220,351 versus 246,000,000. As Erick Schonfeld from TechCrunch confirms, "The results Cuil returns aren’t particularly great, and sometimes completely off the mark. For instance, a search for “Cuil” doesn’t even bring up a link to itself on the first page of results." Now that's a bit sad don't ya think?eWeek confirms, saying "Thanks to quirks in Cuil's search algorithm, search results of some brands are popping up with pictures of competing or even irrelevant brands."


There may be a bright search engine future ahead of Cuil, but not at this point in time. Compared to Google, Cuil definitely lacks such built-in functionality as maps, weather and stock results; or “Did you mean…” spell-check suggestions. There’s also no nifty dictionary “what is…” feature, as in Google.Cuil’s preferences settings couldn’t be more succinct than this:

Cuil preferences settings
Well, perhaps, this is all a web user needs in the end; but doesn’t it seem a little limited to you?All in all, Cuil seems to be nothing more but a simplified version of Google, which may appeal to some users. And this is not to mention such "cuil" Google add-ons, as Google Scholar, Google Books, etc. It also has some major work ahead of it to fix the problems popping up everywhere.Sadly enough, Cuil has missed the mark if it's trying to bring down the Google. Should we give them points "for going where no man has gone before?". Too bad Captain Kirk wasn't available to save the enterprise.