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Cuil Finally Gets Going

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These days, anyone starting a search-related effort almost certainly has to deal with the G-Factor. Are they trying to take on Google? How are they going to beat that awesome search-and-advertising money machine from Mountain View, Calif.? It is hardly a surprise that Anna Patterson, president and co-founder of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Cuil (pronounced cool), has been fielding those questions from the media, as the company gets ready to launch on Monday, July 28.

The company, which has raised about $33 million in two rounds of founding from Madrone Capital Partners, Tugboat Ventures and Greylock Partners, has been the subject of much speculation in Silicon Valley, mostly because of founders’ (Patterson, Tom Costello and Russell Power) pedigrees — not to mention some well-known search luminaries who have joined the company.

Patterson, for instance, was the technical lead of Googlebase and helped form Google’s TeraGoogle search index. She had worked at before joining Google. Costello had developed an early version of WebFountain. Power also worked on TeraGoogle. Former Altavista CTO Louis Monier is also at Cuil. The company had gotten into a spot of bother earlier this year when it started to crawl in what can be described as an ungentlemanly manner, prompting a few thousand sites to ban its crawler. Despite all that, it is still one of the more interesting companies to watch.

During his keynote address at a search industry trade show earlier this year, Monier had noted that “search engines can be used for more than just navigation.” It is becoming increasingly evident that the battle of navigation has been all but won by Google. However, Monier and his cohorts at Cuil are betting that the company can use new information retrieval-and-dissemination technologies to overcome the information overload on the Internet.

My big belief is that “serendipity” is the right way to go as we continue to get immersed (and drowned) in information. From that perspective, Cuil might be on the right track. Patterson stopped by at our San Francisco offices last week to give us a brief overview of the company and how it works.

How it works is that company has an index of around 120 billion pages (which is a lot smaller that what Google claims) that is sorted on dedicated machines, each one tasked with conducting topic-specific search — for instance, health, sports or travel. This approach allows them to sift through the web faster (and probably cheaper) than Google, which still enjoys a huge infrastructure advantage over its rivals. The results of those specific searches are then funneled to the search results page, which looks more like a magazine web site than the search results page we are so used to seeing on, say, Google or Yahoo.

I have no clarity on Cuil’s infrastructure; we couldn’t get into the details because our meeting was quite brief. I do know that while indexing is the easy part, analyzing and displaying all the information is extremely resource-intensive and was one of the main reasons why Powerset took Microsoft’s money.

The search results showed off by the company executives seemed pretty accurate and useful, but since I didn’t get to test them myself, I can’t vouch for their veracity. When I asked Patterson about the challenge of consumer adoption, she countered that most people are willing to try new search services. She feels confident that searching on Cuil will win them over.

71 Responses to “Cuil Finally Gets Going”

  1. ridwanzero

    Cuil is a big failure in its first test. Being in software testing, I searched for “testing life cycle” and the little cuil said “We didn’t find any results for “testing life cycle””…….


  2. There are a lot of sites on the web where people are all excited about Cuil. They like the interface, like the privacy, etc.
    But at the end of the day a search engines most important functions is.. well.. search. And here Cuil is just not there.
    A quick search for “Cisco mars reports” brings up links for the European Space agency, several news sites, and ONE link for … Cisco mars. Without the use of operators the search is worthless.

  3. CUIL is far from “cool” as it can’t find a single link to my decade-old website or any of its several hundred pages and dozens of videos. I doubt that my site’s apparent non-existence is a singularly unique case – and assume the CUIL system isn’t yet capable of basic internet retrieval.

  4. I just searched my name on Cuil, they could not find any of my presence on web even at 10th search page, not even my facebook or my own website where yahoo and google get it on first page. Cuil is googled!!! See you in next life.

  5. Like everybody else, I noticed that cuil hasn’t picked up a lot of things and that they are picking up weird and wacky pictures to accompany the results. Since they are testing, it probably will get better. Like anything else though, technology will keep marching on and I am sure google is working on something in their labs as well. Hopefully down the line we are the ones who will benefit from this and it won’t deteriorate into search engines that will only send whatever has the most paid advertising behind it.

  6. Diana Hall

    I’ve tried about four searches on topics I know well and got pretty skewed results. Then it occurred to me to google, er — CUIL my own field in which I come up at TOP of Google: HANDWRITING ANALYSIS SAN FRANCISCO.

    It brought up 9 KANSAS handwriting/graphology sites as well as one site for a “spiritual healer,” and this crazy site,…, whose subheadings are all possible misspellings of “handwriting” and started to INFECT my computer with three viruses, one a “fatal”! So look out, folks.

    And is using the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley PEDIGREE of their officers as credibility???? Only Dorothy and Toto would offer 9 KS sites when San Francisco was specified!

    When a friend asked today if I’d heard of the new search engine at first I thought it was kind of cute for my purposes as a handwriting expert, cuil = quill? Then I found that it’s pronounced COOL. That’s beyond stupid. With their precious little blue “i” it appears they’re trying to hitch their wagon to Steve Jobs’s iTrain.

    Relax Google, and just keep on getting better all the time. I’m proud to tell people that I provided entertainment for one of your company parties.

    Diana Hall
    Chair of the Graphological Socity of SAN FRANCISCO

  7. I have found news about Cuil on and i turned to GigaOm to find what others are saying about it.

    By the way i tried “Adolf Hitler” in Cuil and found very good result it shouldn’t be searched by “AdolfHitler” i suppose.

    I think Cuil doesn’t have the word processing and dictionary like algorithm’s yet but i am sure they will improve soon.

    Lets see how far Cuil go where Google have the monopoly when it comes to search engine market.


  8. Cuil is cool. But i h=guess it will be premature to say that it will give tough time to google. Google has got place in the heads of people, whenever they search, its the first thing that come to their minds.

    I searched my webistes with my name as a keyword on Cuil and couldn’t get desired results. Google is still ahead and better. I shall continue using my fav Google.

  9. The homepage looks clean and eco-friendly (see Blackle) but the search results page looks a little odd. Seeing so many columns on the search page was a bit confusing to me. I like the idea of displaying images next to the search results but some of them on Cuil were irrelevant.

  10. Mandar Deodhar

    Its okay but not great. They say they have indexed 3 times more pages than google. I searched for “Adolf Hitler” and it returned no result :)

  11. @all…. sorry guys i was out reporting for another story today and basically missed all the noise and fury around this company. as far as launches go, this company got all the hype it needed but wasn’t prepared for it.

    our readers are saying – this isn’t going to pan out. That is saying something. 47% of you are giving it a thumbs down. Interesting. My user experience on the company is pretty mixed thus far – sometimes results show up, and other times they don’t.

    Anyway lets see how many people are using the service a month from now.

  12. Dayahka

    Sorry, but Cuil, no matter how you pronounce it, is DOA. I entered a query and got not a single relevant response from Cuil, then tried Google and everything from the first item to the last one were directly relevant to my query. DOA. Toast. Not worth it. I will not even bother trying this one again.

  13. Cuil has been awful for me so far. As an internet marketer, I’m searching for my clients and not one of them is getting a #1 ranking for their own name – and they all DO on Google.

    Not only that, but (many times) confusing images are appearing next to the search results that don’t even associate with the sites they’re linking too.

    I call crap on this engine so far unless they fix something major.

  14. Robin Craig

    Have been trying Cuil for a few hours and will continue to compare to Google.
    So far Google appears more relevent.
    Does Cuil search by date? What Boolean commands does Cuil accept?

  15. I don’t see this one beating Google. How is that going to happen? Moreso, i have been trying to use it and i couldn’t because it is not responding. The owners, based on their experiences,should have known that a lot of traffic will come since it is heavily adverstised. As a matter of fact, i heard through CNN.