Is Cuil An Alternative To Google?

The site claims to scour far more of the Web than Google does. It promises to sift through more than 120 billion pages to arrive at the best results. Google no longer publicly offers up its breadth, though its silence there will only stir up the hype that Cuil is, in fact, the new Google.

Cuil is a search engine devised by a group of former Google employees. My initial impression of the site was that is was easy to use. It claims to have the largest database of indexed pages in the world, 121 billion – although Google won’t disclose the number of pages it has indexed. But how many pages a search engine has indexed may not mean that much. What matters is if it can find the one simple page a person is looking for.

So I did some tests of my own. I started with word “pirate”. Cuil’s top search result was a site called “Talk like a Pirate Day.” This site didn’t appear on the first page of Google’s results, although Google did find a wikipedia reference to it. Google’s top result was The Pirate Bay, a notorious file-sharing website. Pirate Bay was listed second in Cuil’s results. Beyond that, both sites offered, more or less, the same information.

But it was after the initial search that Cuil really began to shine. While Google offers some related searches, including pirate-related costumes, pictures and games, Cuil offered a much greater variety in alternative searches, including movies, games, software, sports, and even party suggestions.

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Cuil also gives users suggestions based on category. Using pirate as a general term, Cuil suggested I search English Pirates, Pirate Films, Offshore Radio and even the Pittsburgh Pirates, an American baseball team.

While the expanded search capacities seem to give Google a run for their money (based on my one off search term), the site failed to compare in other areas. For starter, there is no way to search specifically for pictures or news.

My second complain was the inability to customise the results. Using Google and another name as a search term, I found over 120,000 results. The large number of results is because Google finds every page with Scott and Shuey, even if that page is referring to professional athletes “Scott” Hamilton and Paul “Shuey”. However, Google also allows me to search for an exact match of any name. That resulted in only 1,340 results.

This option isn’t available with Cuil, which found 1,126 results for my name, with no way to expand or narrow the search, at least, none that I could find.

Reversing the order of the names just seemed to confuse the site. Searching for Shuey Scott on Google gave me the exact same results. Cuil gave different results.

So Cuil is cool if you’re looking for general information, but if you’re looking for specifics, the site can leave you cold.

Watch your back, Google — no matter how far away the items in the rearview mirror appear to be.

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3 Responses

  1. rosalie says:

    The site claims to scour far more of the Web than Google does. It promises to sift through more than 120 billion pages to arrive at the best results. Google no longer publicly offers up its breadth, though its silence there will only stir up the hype that Cuil is, in fact, the new Google.

  2. Chris says:

    Cuil is definitely going for it, but it’s hard to imagine them doing anything but incremental changes to what Google’s done. And even that would take years of effort.

    Me.dium.com has taken a different tack. We have a full web index, but we change the results based on the surfing activity of our user base (now over 2,000,000). It’s in alpha, but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. http://me.dium.com/search

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