Forget it, Cuil. Nice try but no cigar. Last week, former employees of Google launched a competitive search engine “Cuil” or cuil.com (you’re supposed to pronounce it “cool”). At first glance it is as if you’ve been suddenly blessed with the gift of the new – wow, it’s so different, it’s so easy, it’s so … so … black. After searching around Cuil a bit, however, I found it to be slower than expected, rather clunky and not as useful as Google. Let’s face it; no one is ever going to be able to do what Google does better than Google. It ain’t gonna happen.
What Cuil can do, though, is offer different results, in a way, than the ones you’re used to seeing. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to have a lot of junk Google is bogged down with, you know those fake pages that are only search portals with Google Adwords on them that make you then click on their links to find what you want? Cuil lays out magazine style, with pretty pictures and preview text.
The big draw for Cuil, apparently, is that it protects the users’ privacy; it won’t keep the kind of data Google does in order to track what users are looking for. Privacy freaks will definitely be more inclined to Cuil rather than Google when it matters what they’re searching for. One has to decide if that alone is reason enough to put up with the search engine’s humble and clunky beginnings.
The big problem so far appears to be the kinds of results it turns up. They aren’t really first choices so if you’re looking for the best and brightest on the web, or the most alluring or attractive, you’ll have to go back to Google. But if you’re ready to stroll leisurely through the web and take your time, you can cruise Cuil without ever having to click on any of the links.
This differs greatly from the Google model which seems to favor the user clicking to find out what’s there (usually Google Adwords so everybody wins). It can exist happily alongside Google as, perhaps, a more upscale way to preview content on the web. But Google is still it for fast and dirty.
Also, Google is integrated into one’s web experience so completely it almost seems like the Internet IS only Google. It’s our mail, it’s our news portal, its our search portal. And that just cracks the surface. Is it perfect? No way. Is it fair? Not really. But so far, Cuil included, no one has come up with an easier way to search for things online.
When Google came along, the search engines were like AltaVista – a lot of ads, a lot of other stuff going on and way too many pages to search through. Google seemed so clean, so streamlined, so easy, so advertiser-free. It is ironic, then, that Google is now responsible for so much advertising, albeit subtle, throughout the web.
Cuil may become a formidable search engine someday and hey, it’s a great try anyway. There is never shame in trying to disarm a champion.