7/28/2008

Thoughts on Cuil, or maybe we need another search engine

All over the world, thousands of bloggers are dumping on Cuil, the search engine launched today by former employees of Google. The release got a lot of press, as I read many press reports of its creation, which is backed by about $33 million in venture capital. So, after I read the fifth one, I decided to check it out this thing, which is pronounced "cool."

I googled Charlottesville Podcasting Network, and a lot of stuff showed up. I was pleased, and I was also pleased with the look of how the site displayed the results. Instead of listing it with pure text and a very brief abstract, Ciul displays three columns of paragraphs, and takes a picture from somewhere on the web and makes a little in-line photograph.

The organizers of Cuil say they're searching more sites than any other search engine out there. That's supposed to the beauty of their start-up. They also claim to not collect any of your search information.

But, they had issues today. For starters, I have no clue what image they're using to describe my site, which by 11:11 PM has claimed the top left hand entry. I assume that is their top spot. Earlier today, that search didn't even hit the first page of the site.

Second of all, I have no idea what picture they've pulled to illustrate my site. It appears to be a picture of a woman speaking at a conference. I do not recognize it. It certainly says something about my site, but I'm not sure what.

More interesting are the results Ciul pulls up. Google pulls up mentions of the site on other places, such as this introductory note from cvillenews back in 2005. Ciul seems to be picking up and highlighting a lot more of the re-feeders that splog my content on a somewhat legitimate basis. But, in any case, it brings up different information for whatever reason. Perhaps it hasn't learned yet. Or perhaps its slightly different methodology would provide more interesting things, putting people in touch with a wholly different set of topics or perspectives on topics?

Perhaps not.

But, I do know that it's worth checking out over the next few weeks as it develops. I'll likely get bored because Google works quickly and is efficient, which is mostly what I want out of a search engine. That's why I and you quickly adopted our habits less than ten years ago, because it worked quickly and cut through all the clutter. Both by having the best algorithm, but also for presenting it in the most efficient way possible.

I don't think Cuil has sorted that out yet. Doesn't mean they can't, but judging from today's poor showing, I don't think they're going to get many people going back for a second chance. One article I read said that if you had the safe filter turned off, you were likely going to have pornographic images adorning your search results, and you'd never know why.

By the way, searching for the above link really indicated one thing I don't like about Google, or at least, how information is spread over the web. So many of the results for "examiner cuil" lead to the same AP story being duplicated again, and again, and again. I can understand a need for that in the old days, when locally generated media products were likely to supply 100 of your news diet. But, now? Shouldn't those organizations be doing something different with their time?

Anyway, speaking as a very small media outlet and aggregator, I would like to say that I am not ragging on Cuil in any way. I am also someone who promised a magnificent public service, and I'm still in the early days of building it. If you've not been to the Charlottesville Podcasting Network for a while, please do visit the site, and sign up for our e-mail if you don't do the RSS thing. Or, if you do do the RSS thing, sign up for the e-mail anyway.

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