Well Cuil?

Could the mighty Google ever be overcome? A new search engine has been set up. It's called 'Cuil', h

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.

Search for something on Cuil

Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University.
John Moore
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The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.