Earlier this week a new search engine was announced to a certain degree of fanfare and pride. The new search engine Cuil (pronouced "cool") is an interesting search engine at best.
Enough articles and reviews have already been published discussing the developers backgrounds and their former relationship with the likes of Google, so I won't go there. What I will focus on is the quality and usability of the search results.
Ad of today, Cuil claims to have index 121,617,892,992 web pages. This is far more than Google ever claimed and to my knowledge one of the highest amount amongst all search engines. My opinion on this is "So What?". Have the biggest collection of pages means nothing if you don't produce high quality results and have a highly usable search engine.
Back when Google was starting out, I was a reluctant convert. Many kept showing me this new search engine and telling me how much they liked. What they liked was it was clean and simple (unlike the best search engine of the time Alta Vista), but it didn't support complicated searches and as a result the quality of results was some what limited. Of course, Google addressed these weaknesses early on to become the powerhouse it is today.
So let's take Cuil through its paces.
- Starting interface is simple and clean and with that lovely black background (reminds me of 1996 or was that 1997 when all web sites had to have a black background just because.
- Cuil doesn't support even a basic boolean search - I tried using a plus sign "+" between two phrases and it returned unrelated results - remove the + sign and you get better results, but not what I was looking for
- There is no advanced search option (i.e. if you want to exclude a specific domain from your search)
- The search results - now this is different.
I'm going to focus on the search results and what I do and don't like about them.
- There are no ads (Great for now, but for how long)
- A clearly visible filter for safe searching (great for keeping out questionable material from you surfers)
- The choice of displaying results in either 2 or 3 columns
- Interesting images appear next to each search results
- You get to choose between a 2 or 3 column results page - the columns are very narrow making it very difficult to read the result summary. It would have been better if Cuil would have embraced liquid design and allowed the columns to fill the browser window instead of a restricted width. The current design only looks good if you're using a monitor set at a resolution of 800x600 (how year 2000).
- There are interesting pictures next to each search results - sometimes these images are related and other times they are not. From what I could tell is Cuil has some stock images it uses if the page doesn't provide one that it wants to use based on the theme of the page. A search on my name "k'necht" yield a few results with my picture next to it and other times I have no idea of what the picture is of or how it is related to the result.
- Quality of the results - I found this the weakest part of Cuil. Several sites that I can easily find using Google, Yahoo or Live (always show up in the top 10 if not the top 5) and are import sites for the search term, don't show up on page 1 and in some case don't appear until page 1.
So what is clear is that Cuil has a unique approach and a completely different algorithm than 3 major search engines. Time will tell if they will be able to tweak this to start producing better quality results instead of just more pages. And lastly I appreciate their different approach to displaying the search results, but it does require a tiny bit of tweaking.