Cuil: First Look

It’s been a while since somebody challenged Google at it’s game. Cuil was launched a couple of days back and it has everybody pouncing upon it. For the first few hours the servers were down owing to the exponential increase in search load. Bloggers are in a hurry to get their reviews out on the latest Google-Killer. While the industry response has been pretty balanced, some have gone for the jugular. A majority though prefer the wait-and-watch approach for there have been many such so-called-google-killers in the past and Cuil is no different. The only reason Cuil is generating so much interest is because the people behind it are xooglers(ex-Googlers).

The Cuil home pageCuil has search appliances that are specialized to cater to a subcategory of results. So you will have a Cuil machine for movies, one for sports, one for medicine etc etc. Now if any of these Cuil machines get overloaded, they momentarily go offline and the machines left online return less-than-relevant results. Seperate machines? Smart, lekin irrelevant results? not-so-smart! The way Cuil indexes pages is also slightly old fashioned. While Google ranks them based on popularity and number of links pointing to it(pagerank), Cuil more depends on page content. So Cuil looks more on the occurrences of the search term and etc. But that’s the USP of Cuil and they more focus on the drill down features rather than a stack of links. So by displaying results horizontally across the page with more photos Cuil definitely makes good use of web page real estate. The neat feature is the availability of a sidebar that can be clicked to get into on topics related to the content.

General Motors search results on Cuil
Let’s put it to the ‘Dappan Koothu Test’ and see how it performs, but first some feature showcase. To the left is the results page that Cuil returns when searched for ‘General Motors‘ (click it to enlarge). Now it’s a mere coincidence that I searched for my employers and not a show of loyalty. On the top Cuil lines up other possible search results as tabs that are grouped by similar looking keywords. The page rotator at the bottom for Cuil is snazzy, I’m biased for blue and black are my favorite colors. The sidebar feature that I mentioned can be seen to the right. The Cuil sidebar has an accordion feel to it and gives you further information thus enabling you to refine your search. I guess it’s time for some sharp criticism as this review is looking too sweet.

Cuil search results for maxdavinci
Cuil was down for a while when I tried yesterday and that could be to the launch. But then each time I searched I got different results for the same term. Cuil says that no two persons see the same set of results. Fair enough, they localize the results and that could explain it. What explanation could be given to a guy who searches for the same term in a span of minutes? I asked Cuil to give me all the results when searched for ‘maxdavinci‘ and I was pretty disappointed. Well for starters this page ranks 5th and the response was pretty slow. Some of the pages Cuil indexed were deleted long ago and should have been purged from the index. Cuil only had indexed 600 odd pages for my name though it claims to be the biggest search engine and is supposed to have indexed more pages than Google.
Google search results for maxdavinciGoogle however boosted my morale by ranking me #1 and the majority of the links on the first page were mine. Also rather unsurprisingly Google fetched 5 times the number of results that Cuil gave me, So much for their claim. What sort of a name is Cuil, not that Google is a cool name. Google is easier to pronounce but Cuil according to the founder is to be pronounced as ‘Cool’. Allo? I went to a very respectable school and my dad forced me to do Wren & Martin, I also know phonetics okay! Cuil can atmost be pronouned as ‘Keyool’ or ‘Kooyil’ and maybe ‘Kwill’. None of these are even close to ‘Cool’. Let’s finish it of with a list of Ayes and Nays.


  • Neat user interface
  • Good use of web page real estate
  • Nice use of my favorite colors
  • Grouping by tabs
  • Accordion sidebar for drill down


  • Weird name
  • Poor response time
  • Indexes deleted pages
  • Far lesser pages indexed
  • Irregularity in searches for the same keyword.
  • This blog is #5 and most of my pages are not indexed

Well the Nays beat the Ayes and the Nays have it. While we are at search engines, I’d strongly reccomend a look at SearchMe. In lay man’s terms it comes across as the ‘Fardeen Khan of Search Engines‘. Visually appealing but a total waste of time. If you are a Fardeen fan, you’ll obviously disagree. I however pity you for like your idol even our existence is a total waste of time!

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internet connectivity addict, adventure enthusiast, twitter maniac and jack of all trades

14 Comments + Add Comment

  • Cuil I believe. Kaka-nnu vechurkalaam.

    the reason for my outburst is this

    Bleddy naansense. Google vazhga!

    me: Imagine it becomes popular. then it will help you stay anonymous. I guess OK will love this search engine…

  • Nice analysis. I had similar thoughts and chutney’s same complains. Bleddy nonsense indexing. All old pages.

    me: Well if they wanna beat the google index in terms of numbers then they have to index old and deleted pages!

  • Google rocks man! With or without my loyalty ;)

    me: I’m just trying to be unbiased

  • It’s only a matter of time before a couple of bright guys do to Google what Larry Page and Sergey Brin did to Yahoo!

    BTW, you work for GM? Are you an automotive engineer? I thought I was the last of the desis to not major in CS :)

    me: Childhood dream of cars meets passion for computers. Couldn’t have asked for anything else..

  • You think Fardeen Khan is visually appealing ! :O

    me: Was actually going to use Celina Jaitely or Tanushree Dutta, but a female frnd online was raving about how hot and suave Fardeen is. So I just saved these ladeej for another analogy, another day.

  • See if somebody’s planning to upstage google it has to happen in a year. Cauze, next year a certain somebody may join forces with Google. I mean if they want him. Er.. if he graduates ;)

    me: well no harm in being optimistic. good luck…

  • It took Google a long time to get it right. So its good to see Cuil try. I hope they don’t get discouraged by the horrific beating they’re taking these days on FriendFeed.

    In any case, to beat Google you have to come up with something new, not try to do what they do best. There are some gaps: specialized searches, breaking news, microblog searches. These are things Google doesn’t do well. And it represents a real problem that needs to be solved – not a fake one addressed by a cutesy product like we see these days.

    And there could be a market there big enough that you could build a product, solve a problem and use it to go after Google.

    me: wow Aspi sir! Firstly welcome to this blog and I’m honored. You make a fabulous point about breaking news and microblog searches. I hope someone is reading coz I do see potential there. But to be a giant killer you will have to come out with a kickass product. A lot of people are looking for alternatives hence the interest in google-killers in the first place…

  • Ah, just yesterday I was checking this thing out.. being used to Google, I’m not sure I like the UI of Cuil..something about the black background puts me off. I think it’ll take more than just hype to make me leave God Google :-)

    me: Welcome ms.celebrity! point taken conversion is gonna a be an uphill task.

  • this migh look fancy .. but its too gawky.. might drive most of the people out.
    and i hate the UI … may be just cause i’m really used to google with the opera’s quick search option…

    me: It’s gonna be hard to win over people and convert them….

  • One searches for cuil in google and google in cuil. The second search in the cuil results page throws shit. And cant they find an english name? Enna ezhavo?! Google wins.

    me: that’s a simpler and better test!

  • Wot?! I read your blog all the time, man.

    The only entity with an outside chance of beating Google that I can think of is Facebook. They aren’t remotely there yet, but the platform is there and so is the content. More importantly its content Google can’t get to and FB has a legit reason for turning away the Google spiders.

    But FB have to take some big chances and they have to do it fast.

    me: doesn’t mean I can’t feel honored! I see FB only as an orkut/myspace killer. But now with ads etc they are expanding the limits of social media. Search is still the primary revenue generating product for Google

  • @ aspi : google might acquire it ;-)

  • “The only reason Cuil is generating so much interest is because the people behind it are xooglers(ex-Googlers).”

    you sure it’s just google?

    me: seems like it was a prank! good one though

  • Apparently Cuil was not quite ready for launch during the first day or two – many medium long tail queries did not return results at all, and even general queries returned way fewer results than they should have considering Cuil’s claims of having indexed so many pages already. They did improve somewhat afterward, however, and seem to be picking up more results and increasing relevance as more people have been testing out the engine.

    In the long run, I hope they get things together and perform well enough to compete with the major search engines and then maybe do some advertising. I would like to see more serious competitors to Google in order to hold their power in check and encourage more transparency overall.

    me: well lets wait and watch. Time will only tell

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