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Cuil: “Google Killer”? We Didn’t Find Any Results for “Google Killer”…

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we love the look; too bad about the results...

Cuil's homepage: we love the look and feel.

There’s been a lot of hype recently about (which, we’re repeatedly told, is pronounced, “cool” (but which we can’t stop pronouncing “kweel”)), the new search site put together by a former Google employee, her husband and a couple of former Google engineers, among others. The hype includes claims that Cuil boasts a larger index of sites than Google, has a smarter, more human-like understanding of what you’re really looking for and is generally kweeler…er…cooler than Google. We decided to see what $33 million of venture capital gets you in the way of a search engine.

While maintaining Google's minimalist approach, Cuil represents a clearner, more modern look...

While maintaining Google's minimalist approach, Cuil represents a darker, clearner and more modern look...

First impressions

We like the look of Cuil’s homepage. In keeping with the fundamentals of the Google aesthetic, the site’s designers have gone for a minimalist approach. However, completely unlike Google’s classic home page, the Cuil site confronts a visitor with a dark, black background: about as far from Google’s vibe as one can get. They’re certainly making a statement with their theme, and it works: Cuil’s designers have somehow made the interface feel like Google and the anti-Google all at once.

Privacy Policy

This is the one area where, all other things being equal, Cuil really does have a chance of living up to the “Google-killer” label. Google has made some mis-steps on the privacy front of late – witness the Viacom et al v.You Tube lawsuit, wherein a judge, clearly out of his technological depth, ordered You Tube to turn over data which included information which could potentially identify individual visitors to You Tube and what those visitors watched. Rather than throw their mammoth resources into fighting the ruling tooth and nail (their business model, after all, is based on users’ trust), Google instead chose to negotiate a deal with Viacom that would prevent the personally identifiable part of the data from being turned over to Viacom, in the process establishing the judge’s order as a precedent for future cases.

Cuil makes the whole scenario a moot point by not keeping personally identifiable data in the first place – it’s discarded immediately upon creation. The net effect (pardon the pun) is that there is no personally identifiable user data to turn over, regardless of the whims of any judge.

That’s first-rate, and something we’d like to see become the de facto standard among websites. It also trumps Google’s “Do No Evil” creed-turned-slogan.


If you’re anything like us (and the overwhelming majority of people, in this case, are), you rarely visit search results beyond the first page: if the first batch of results don’t contain what you’re looking for, it’s time to modify your search words, toss in some quotation marks, etc. We mention this by way of getting to this point: we don’t really care if a site has 120 billion pages indexed if the site we’re really looking for is the 120 billionth result. We need results fast and accurate, or we’re leaving.

As such, we decided to test some obvious searches, some less obvious search terms and some local search terms we use all the time. We also, for amusement’s sake, searched “cuil” and “google” on each site. Then we searched for the Lynch report (this time for vanity’s sake).

Firstly, we tried “cnn”. Cuil returns about exactly the results you expect, and we really like the tabs along the top which take you to related searches – they’re a great idea and one we’re surprised didn’t occur to Google. Cuil also returns the same related search suggestions on a panel titled “Categories” to the right of the search results, and the headings reveal additional sub-headings upon a mouse-over. Pretty good stuff, and in a much nicer, more sophisticated layout and design than Google. So far, so good.

The tabbed browsing, a la Firefox, is great. A "Categories" box dupicates the tabs, and expands to show sub-categories upon mouse-over.

Related searches appear in tabs along the top, a la Firefox, which is great. A "Categories" box dupicates the tabs, and expands to show sub-categories upon mouse-over.

Next we tried “guns n roses”. Again, Cuil impressed. The search suggestion box is great, showing related searches for Band Members, Songs, Lyrics, etc., all mirrored on the convenient tabs along the top. Perfect.

"" is not a relevant result of a search for "cuil" on Cuil!

"" is not a relevant result of a search for "cuil" on Cuil!

Then we tried searching for “cuil”, and that’s when things really started going off the rails for the new site. Cuil doesn’t return a result for their own page in the first page of results! On Google, meanwhile, “cuil” returns “” as its first result. That got us laughing, so we decided to see how many pages deep we’d have to go on Cuil before we found their site – maybe Cuil figures you wouldn’t be looking for their site if you were actually on their site already.

Unfortunately, we never did find a result for “”. That’s because the site started acting up everytime we tried to dig deeper than the first page of results, routinely returning:

We didn’t find any results for “<insert the site we searched for here>”

Some reasons might be…

  • a typo. Please check your spelling.
  • your search includes a term that is very rare. Try to find a more common substitute.
  • too many search terms. Please try fewer terms.

Finally, try to think of different words to describe your search.

Hmmm…OK…”cuil” looks like a typo no matter how many times we see it in print, however we double-checked and indeed had it right. And we’ll grant you that “cuil” is indeed a rare term, but it worked for the first page of results. Too many search terms? The next best alternative is no search term at all. We are indeed, finally, thinking of different words to describe our search – all of them of the four-letter variety by this point…

"" is not a relevant, first page result of a search for "ciul" on Cuil.

The second page of search results typically returns this error message.

We encountered the same scenario for all the subsequent searches we tried: we couldn’t get past the first page of results.

Next we tried two search terms for the site you’re currently viewing: “the lynch report” and ‘westcoastsuccess”. Neither search term brought up our site on the first page of results. Now we were getting downright irate – Google’s never treated us like this!

One more test: we get all our computer parts from New Type Computer Workshop – a great little hole-in-the-wall computer supplies/parts store down in Yaletown. We tried “ntcw” (their site is no luck on the first page and second page returns the usual (by this point) error. “” is the first result returned by Google. We also tried “new type computer workshop” but couldn’t even get the first page of results this time.

The first result for a search of "google" on Cuil. Nothing Cuil is doing is going to require a rewrite of this entry anytime soon...

The first result for a search of "google" on Cuil. Nothing Cuil is doing is going to require a rewrite of this entry anytime soon...

Lastly, we tried searching Cuil for “google”. The first result is for “” and states:

Google, a Web search engine owned by Google, Inc., is the most used search engine on the Web. Google receives several hundred million queries each day through its various services.”

Aptly put, and after our test drive of Cuil, we don’t see that changing any time in the near future…


Written by westcoastsuccess

July 28, 2008 at 5:37 pm