You know your product is gonna have problems from the get go when you have to constantly explain how its name is pronounced. Cuil (pronounced “cool”) is a new search engine, the brainchild of ex-Googlehead Anna Paterson, her husand Tom Costello, and assorted other people with more gray matter than sense (apparently).
I know, I know: We live in the era of stupid names, and at least this one uses vowels. But if you’re trying to beat Google at the search game, you need to bring more to the table than a cute name. Like…. a search engine that actually searches. But right now I can’t even get to the Cuil.com page. I’m getting a 403 Forbidden error. That ain’t good.
Harry McCracken over at The Technologizer has more details. He apparently got it to work, or almost work. But his assessment isn’t pretty. I quote:
Cuil’s first result for “america” is AOL; its first result for “capitol” is for the Nebraska state capitol; its first result for “hamburger” is a site selling a book of restaurant reviews for airplane pilots….Oh, and its first result for “iphone” is for a phone from…Cisco. (McCracken’s Fifth Law of Search Relevance states that zero percent of people who search for “iphone” are seeking information on Cisco VoIP products.)
Ummm, I could really go for a hamburger. I wonder what the pilots at US Airways think.
OK, clearly the site is new. And I’m guessing the reason it won’t resolve for me is that a) it’s overwhelmed with traffic, or b) the site operators took a look at the thrashing it was getting and decided to pull back and tweak its algorithms. I’m guessing “a” is more likely. Which brings up an intriguing point. Are people so hungry for alternatives to Google? Has the G-machine gotten too big, the search results too unwieldy, the advertising too obtrusive? Is there room for a search engine that is truly cool (if not Cuil)?
UPDATE: Ok, I got in, finally. And because like everyone else on the Net I am an egomaniac at heart, the first thing I do is search for my name (“Tynan”). First result: A personal Web site for one Kirsten C. Tynan that hasn’t been updated since 2003. Not good. Then Ronan Tynan (natch) followed by Tynan, Texas.
Google, on the other hand, has Tynan Motors at #1 and “Tynan is Better Than Your Boyfriend” at number two. (Yes, I am — but that’s not my site. It’s some very enterprising blogentrepreneur who’s managed to game Google’s search algorithm fairly successfully). This blog is number four — surprising, since it’s never ranked so high before.
What’s nice about Cuil: I like the tabbed results pages, and the nonlinear display. More on this later.