How Big is Your Search Engine (and who cares)?

Cuil vs Google
There used to be this huge debate over which search engine indexed the most pages. I kind of thought everyone had given up on that and conceded that Google is the biggest and besides relevance of results is much more important than the size of the search index. But the past couple days the web is abuzz with talk about the newest entrant into the search game, Cuil (pronounced: cool). There have been rumblings about this new search engine for a while, but now that it’s live, the media has gone berserk over the potential Google-slayer. Every article I read talks about how Cuil indexes 120 Billion pages–an estimated 3 times more than Google. Of course, Google was quick to explain on the Google Blog that they’re still the biggest and baddest search kid on the block and actually know about 1 TRILLION pages, but they’re too smart and too good to index all of them. Don’t worry, though, they index all the important stuff, so there’s no need to search anywhere but Google to find what you need. Obviously it hurts Google’s feelings if some new search engine can come in and beat them at their own game, so they’ve got to stick up for themselves, but I tend to believe Google that they really do index a lot more than the 40 Billion pages that Cuil estimates.

In terms of the search engine itself, Cuil takes a new approach to displaying the search results and although the pictures are kind of random and don’t always match up with the associated site, I like having pictures long with the description, and I really like the alternate category searches that they offer up for each search result. In terms of relevancy, I did a few quick searches and the results seem pretty good, but nothing I couldn’t find on the first page of Google. And where in the world are they pulling those pictures alongside the results? Some of those have nothing to do with the associated result! Danny Sullivan wrote a post about his quick test of Cuil’s relevancy (he’s not impressed). Others were similarly underwhelmed by the quality of Cuil at launch: Hallam, Huffington Post, PC Mag, TechCrunch, Techie Buzz, Industry Standard, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, Twitter

It doesn’t matter if you index 40 Billion pages, 120 Billion pages or a Trillion, a good search engine will index enough of the right pages, and whether or not I can find what I’m looking for when I perform a search. I know the size thing it’s just a PR gimmick (and working well for them), but it’s a lot easier to say “our index is bigger” than “our index is better” because quality is so subjective. The hype about size (regardless of whether it’s true or not) will fade fast, so if Cuil wants any chance of stealing a piece of the search pie, they will need to prove they deserve it by delivering quality, relevant results. In fact, even that might not be enough, because Google already does that. They’ve got to give us something more or better than what we can get from Google. If they can’t do that, Cuil will just fade into the sea of wannabe search engines that never had what it took to knock off the king of search.

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7 Comments

  1. Ash says

    I spent less than 20 minutes on Cuil because it wasn’t impressive. Sure adding pictures can be nice if you actually relate pictures that belong together. Some search strings displayed results of one website with pictures from another. I sense an uproar over that.

    StumbleUpon does a great job of not only displaying pics but trying to focus on the image that will generate a click. This works for me. Images can increase clicks; a good thing.

    But the reality is that search is more than number of indexes: convenience, timing, mobile access, services, community, etc.

  2. David Scoville says

    Cuil is all hype… However, I like the images and 3 column layout. I wonder how things would change with rankings if Google changed their search results to a 3 column results page. Would marketers start targeting the 1st, 5th and 9th positions?

    I like Cuil’s search suggestion drop-down box as well–somewhat like Yahoo!’s. Why hasn’t Google included an option like that?

  3. says

    Um, I think their revenue model is to make a big splash and then get acquired by Microsoft. I don’t think they have any ads yet (like Google when it first started, only with crappier search capabilities).

  4. Ryan Nagy says

    Thanks for the info on Cuil. I did a number of searches and was surprised to find one that recieved NO hits, even though a similar search on Google yileded thousands of results.

    What is their revenue model? I did not see any ads. Do they do paid placement?

  5. Amin Marts says

    I’m in agreement with much of what has been said however let’s pretend Cuil’s creators are smarter than us. Launching Cuil to the public can and will serve as a ‘bug’ shakeout from both a technical and marketing perspective. The mis-associating of website pictures is a perfect example of Cuil’s technical shortcomings.

    Being that search is the cornerstone of collaboration, it would make sense that the solution have hooks into many top tier collaboration platforms. Namely, Clearspace, Sharepoint, etc. Leveraging the ‘community’ to voice their approval and disapproval of Cuil’s feature functionality provides them with realistic metrics of what’s sticky and broken without going down the ‘open’ path.

    The market for a new search engine is small to non-existent. This is of no surprise to anyone especially investors who are backing this endeavor. That said, the logical move is to leverage this ‘new’ search algorithm to enhance inter-organizational search within blended communities.

  6. Kathleen Zuckerman says

    (Amin) That’s an interesting perspective. You’ve summed up my and probably many other’s thoughts succinctly. If Cuil’s value proposition speaks only to the size of their search field they definitely have a problem.

    Notably, they also don’t subscribe to the tenet of Web 2.0 that talks to being able to consume data anytime anywhere.

    Check it out on your mobile device to see what I mean.

    Good blog post on Cuil as well…. http://shermaneleven.blogspot.com/2008/07/revisiting-cuil-with-metrics.html

  7. Dan Martin says

    Actually we use a search engine to find what we really want fast and easily. We do not want to spend our whole time in a search engine (SE). We go to a SE because we have to not because we want to. I think goole is the best by far. I did some time with cuil and was not what i was hoping for.

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