Just a few days after Google claimed to have visited one trillion unique URL’s on the internet, a new startup launched onto the web with the lofty claim of already having indexed more pages than the big G.
Cuil (pronounced ‘cool’, of course) opened for use yesterday claiming to have some 120 billion pages indexed. Blimey.
Formed by ex-Googlers with $33m of venture funding, Cuil has been in development for the last three years and has attracted a huge amount of interest, coverage and upon launch - searches.. So many, infact, that a few hours after opening for business it buckled under the sustained weight of new-user’s excitable queries. Not to worry, it’s back up now…
Cuil claims to have a vastly improved search method than Google - most importantly from a business point of view, making it far easier to scale as it grows. Rather than ranking keywords as Google does, Cuil seeks to index meaning from pages and then give you the opportunity to refine your search as you go.
By understanding the context of your search through such semantic indexing, Cuil claims to distance itself from the the pretenders to the Google throne such as Powerset which uses an artificial intelligence approach to try and understand natural language.
The user interface itself is pleasing. It also displays the results in an easy to browse columnated format with the category options off to the side. It’s really is rather like reading a magazine of search results, with the suggested tabs and further options making the whole exercise feel rather more like a pleasant browse than a laser-focussed search.
Perhaps most notably absent from the site are the paid searches which run down the right-hand side of every Google search. It’s a refreshing change from the Google norm, but one which isn’t destined to last. Eventually Cuil will establish ad-sales as its principle revenue stream proving the Web 2.0 truism that if you can get the eyeballs, you can get the money.
Perhaps the most conspicuous way in which Cuil distances itself from Google, is in its attitude to privacy. Whilst Google has based an entire business model upon knowing the intimate surfing trends of its users, Cuil has taken a provocatively different approach.
Rather than just promising that it won’t do "evil" with the information it collects, Cuil’s approach is to not collect that information at all.
As landmark rulings such as the YouTube vs Viacom case have shown, Google is going to find it increasingly difficult to sustain both its power and stay a comfortable distance from Satan.
Cuil has a gargantuan task ahead of itself to try and catch Google (or even Yahoo), but it’s differentiated enough to be off to a good start.