Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cuil Fails to Impress

There's been a lot of buzz around Cuil, a new search engine produced by ex-Googlers. In my opinion it is mostly due to this very fact that they are ex-Googlers that there is such a buzz around it and if this is the case it is sure to be short-lived if they don't up their game fast.

I just recently got myself a new phone and I've been searching for what cool things you can do with Bluetooth on Ubuntu. I had been previously searching for this on Google and what would you know, the first two hits are very useful. Lets try the same search on Cuil. What are the results like? Well it seemed to only care about the "ubuntu" keyword and almost completely disregard the "bluetooth" keyword. I couldn't care less about Ubuntu 5.10 release notes!

Not a good first start. I'm sure many people have tried searching for themselves on Google just out of curiosity. I do so fairly regularly as it's one way I can track how Google changes results over time. Do the search on Google and you get my blog and website right on top, spot on! Do the same and Cuil and...oh no! Tiramisu recipe?! Ok so there's an Italian cook with that shares my name. What's the flight simulator screenshot doing next to a result on recipes?! Then there's the five results that look identical from looking at the results page, their snippets need some urgent attention. It seems they just increased the snippet length to get around that downfall of theirs, but nope it won't work for long. Two of these reults are in fact exact duplicates, so their duplicate detection needs working on if they have any at all. There's no point boasting about having the largest index without it being a useful one. I'd rather have 10 solid results than a million shitty ones with those 10 hidden amongst the mess.

Lets dig through a few more pages of results to dig deeper. Nothing interesting on the 2nd page but my Digg profile, how exciting. 3rd page, nothing. Dear these thumbnails next to the results are random, what's up with the guy weighing himself? 4th page, my Digg profile again (just with the www. in front this time!). And oh wow, finally my website...on the 4th page of results!! I tried looking for my blog but I gave after page 10.

In response to Tim Keller's more positive comments:

  • Black background on the homepage: Might be nice, but not going to convert me
  • Auto suggest: You get the same thing with the Firefox search bar or Google Suggest, which return ranked suggestions.
  • Magazine style presentation: Nice at first glance, but is it productive?
  • Simplicity:Personal taste, but the value far outweighs the clutter of the "Sign in" options and such. Google run exhaustive tests before changing their interface.
  • Explore by category: Nice idea, already tested by Google while I was there, but from my experience the categories weren't often relevent.
In short, a few nice new touches to the interface isn't going to outwiegh quality results. While it may be promising, Cuil really needs lots of work before it gets anywhere in the highly competitive search engine market. And please stop the boasting in the about pages, not even when you do make it up there!

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