Why Cuil is not a Google-killer.
It’s fair to say that most search engine news is outside of the mainstream. CNN doesn’t usually cover every algorithm update. So when we have 3 clients contact us within hours of a new search engine launch, we can be pretty sure that it must be generating some buzz.
That is certainly the case with Cuil.
It’s founded by a “trio of former Googlers”. The search index is more than 120 billion pages, “three times the size of Google’s index”. It promises to be “more comprehensive and more relevant (than Google)”. And so on, and so on.
It seems that everyone is so invested in finding a challenger to the virtual monopoly that Google has on search that they aren’t looking at the bigger picture. People use Google not because they have to, but because Google works. Google has been the clear leader since it launched, and everyone else is still playing catch-up. If Microsoft and Yahoo, with all their billions of dollars sloshing around can’t compete (and they can’t) then a new upstart like Cuil has no chance, however many column inches of news they grab.
120 billion pages index might make for good attention grabbing copy, but it’s virtually meaningless. People use a search engine to find things, it’s as simple as that. Cuil fails on that very simple measurement. It may have the largest index, but the results are in many cases, useless. Even in the areas where the results are relevant, they are not *more* relevant than Google’s. So why switch?
I tried some side by side comparisons:
|New York Hotels
||A map with hotels marked. A list of local hotels. Both individual and directory sites, all focused on NY hotels
||Some individual hotels in NY. Some generic travel sites, like Tripadvisor. Links to the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winners, Vaudeville Performers and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hmmm….
||The official site. How stuff Works and Wikipedia entries. No spam.
||The official site. The FDA home page. A lot of ‘Buy Generic Viagra’/'Herbal viagra’ spam.
||Wikipedia entry. Weather in Tainan. MyAreaGuide to the city. Walking tour of Tainan.
||“No results were found for: Tainan, Taiwan. If you’ve checked your spelling, you could try using fewer or different keywords to broaden your search.”
I can’t see, as it currently stands, any reason why people would switch from Google to Cuil. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong, and I’ll happily admit it if so, but for right now, Cuil is anything but.
I’ll be honest. Whenever I hear of a new ’2.0′ tool I tend to try it out so I can stay up to date, but I’m usually not overly impressed. A few stick for me, Facebook and Jott for instance. Many more don’t – Stumbleupon, Disqus, etc are very popular but they just didn’t grab me. I was highly sceptical of Twitter.
Microblogging? Why? What’s the point? Well, let me share a few things that I like about Twitter:
- It’s so easy! It takes seconds to set up and you’re up and running. Yes, you can customize your profile page if you wish, but it’s not necessary. Got something on your mind? Just say it!
- Follow the experts in your field. I read Matt Cutt’s blog but not daily as perhaps I should. On Twitter though, it’s much easier.
- You don’t feel daunted by a long post which you know is going to suck up time that should be spent working. It’s 140 characters or less. For someone who claims “Brevity is the soul of wit“. Twitter would suit Polonius perfectly “@QueenGertrude I will be brief: your noble son is mad”. Done!
- It’s not all work, work, work. I follow some people purely for entertainment: SlashFilm for movie news, and Guardian Football for soccer news – chances are, whatever your interest, you can find something on Twitter.
- Ask the Audience. I’d guess around 10% of the Tweets I get are requests for help with something. And people are usually very happy to help.
Much as I appreciate Lyn’s excitement for another Google offering, I’m not completely sold on the concept of Knol yet, for a few reasons:
I know there are issues with Wikipedia and their collaborative approach, but I think that over time it tends to balance out fairly evenly, so that Wikipedia’s error rate is about the same as that of the Encyclopedia Britannica (see here).
I don’t see how Knol improves upon the Wikipedia in that regard, in fact it seems to me that you will end up with hundreds of conflicting articles on subjects each claiming to be the truth.
Secondly, allowing people to run AdSense ads on there will encourage a lot of spamming. The editorial process, and nature of Wikipedia, means that articles tend to be written by people who are simply very interested in a subject, rather than those who are looking to make some easy AdSense money. I predict a wave of ‘informational’ pages from places like India on the usual topics of spammers – casinos, and the like. Early evidence is backing this up – there are currently more results for ‘viagra’ on Knol than for ‘New York city’!
(also check the comments on most articles – a lot of spambot activity! “interesting article! Visit my blog www.something.com”)
Finally, the fact that it is a Google product doesn’t guarantee success. I doubt that they would, but if Google allowed Knol pages to rank higher simply because they are part of Knol, it would clutter the natural search results with junk. Then people will simply turn to Yahoo, MSN, or some new start-up that has better search results (Cuil.com perhaps?). There is nothing intrinsically unique about Google’s search that could prevent it from going the way of HotBot, AltaVista, Excite and many others if they don’t deliver what people are looking for.
And, yes, having the backing of the world’s #1 brand gives Knol a head-start that it wouldn’t otherwise have, but so did (does?) Friendster, and how many people do you know use that?
Maybe I’m completely wrong about this, I’m sure there must be a few people at Google smarter than me who have already thought of these points, but I’m going to reserve judgment before declaring Wikipedia dead and buried.