coo-el: cuil to challenge google

Search engine developer, Anna Patterson, who designed search technologies bought by Google has launched her own search engine meant to rival Google: Cuil (the article says Cuil is pronounced “cool” but the coloring of the font suggests “coo-el”).

cuil screen shot

Cuil displays its search results as chunks of text across two or three columns. Here, the search results for “William Wolff”:

Cuil’s philosophy: “The Internet is getting bigger and more disorganized every day. Cuil’s goal is to solve the two great problems of search: how to index the whole Internet—not just part of it—and how to analyze and sort out its pages so you get relevant results.” They are trying to work against the notion that popularity is the most important factor when classifying and listing search results. As such, here is how they analyze results:

Popularity is useful, but has dominated search results so heavily that it gets harder and harder to find the page you want, especially if your search is a complex one. Cuil respects popular pages and recognizes that for many simple searches, popularity is an easy answer to your question. But for a deeper search, establishing relevancy is more than a numbers game. Cuil prefers to find all the pages with your keyword or phrase and then analyze the rest of the content on those pages. During this analysis we discover that your keywords have different meanings in different contexts. Once we’ve established the context of the pages, we’re in a much better position to help you in your search.

They also have a laudable and comforting respect for privacy and as a result, does not collect, store, and analyze individual’s search histories: “when you search with Cuil, we do not collect any personally identifiable information, period. We have no idea who sends queries: not by name, not by IP address, and not by cookie. Your search history is your business, not ours. We don’t need to keep logs of our users’ search activity, so we don’t.”

However, I think people are going to want effectiveness from their search engine. Even though Cuil boasts that it is “the world’s biggest search engine,” a search for “William Wolff Rowan” doesn’t find me in–indeed, there is only one web page in the results list: a 2007 high school graduating class (and when you click on the link you are brought to a 404 File Not Found error). The same search on Yahoo! and Google places me at the to of the list of results. So, despite its claims of a deeper search, the word is still out on how effective that search algorithm actually is.

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