Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Another serious rival for Google?

Every few months the press will announce the launch of another new search engine that 'may' challenge the dominance of Google. This week sees the launch of Cuil which has got the press more excited than usual and is notably different to many other new search engine launches, due to the people behind it.

Cuil - pronounced 'cool' from the Gaelic word for knowledge - has been developed by a number of ex-Google employees who worked on the development of Google's search technology. The site already claims to be the web's largest search engine, with "three times as many (pages) as Google and ten times as many as Microsoft".

They are also standing out on the privacy stakes by saying that "we believe that analyzing the Web rather than our users is a more useful approach, so we don’t collect data about you and your habits, lest we are tempted to peek. With Cuil, your search history is always private."

Also Cuil says that rather than rely on 'superficial popularity metrics' they search and rank pages based on their content and relevance, so that when a result is found they will analyze the rest of the resulting site's content as well as "its concepts, their inter-relationships and the page’s coherency". In doing so, Cuil will offer users more choices and suggestions to give them enough information to find the page required and other relevant information.

It certainly sounds like a great concept and the search engine looks pretty good as well, with a clean black search page (to contrast with Google's clean-ish white page), and search engine results being presented in 3 columns (or 2 depending on the user's preference) within a frame, with many sites also displaying small images. There are no sponsored ads showing at the moment although there is space for these to appear later.

Danny Sullivan has written a typically detailed and insightful assessment of Cuil over at Search Engine Land and the new launch is certainly attracting attention from the industry media (as well as immediate criticism). The question is whether it will catch on with users who are entrenched as Google-searchers and can break into the market through the same process that made Google so successful - quality search results and word-of-mouth recommendation.

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