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Cuil stumbles out of the gate

Juan Carlos Perez | July 28, 2008
The latest search engine startup to come out is taking a beating that could do it long-term damage.

Among others, search engine expert Danny Sullivan criticised Cuil for focusing on the size of its index a practice that fell into disfavour years ago, as engines focused on the quality of results and questioned the basic validity of the claim.

"Yes, size matters. You want to have a comprehensive collection of documents from across the web. But having a lot of documents doesn't mean you are most relevant," Sullivan wrote on his Search Engine Land blog (

Sullivan also pointed out that Google hasn't publicly stated the size of its Web index in years, and that even if Cuil's is indeed three times as big, Google could quickly match that by simply becoming a bit less selective. Last Friday (July 25), Google, likely anticipating Cuil's launch on Monday, said its crawlers today "see" more than 1 trillion URLs on the Web.

Google declined to comment about Cuil's claim and also declined to say how many links are in its Web index.

Sullivan and other search market observers said they were underwhelmed by the quality of Cuil's results.

"With the huge caveat that nine queries are far from letting anyone conclude anything, I still didn't come away with a sense that Cuil has Google-beating relevancy. Instead, it has some flaws though is better than many start-up search engines appear out of the box," Sullivan wrote in another post Monday.

"I played with the site a fair bit when it turned on this morning. So far it doesn't do much for me," wrote Saul Hansell of The New York Times in a blog post titled "Cuil's New Search Engine: Cheaper Than Google, but Not Better" (/

Cuil, which is pronounced "cool," got a resounding thumbs-down from The Wall Street Journal's John Paczkowski in an AllThingsD post titled Totally UnCuil (

"If your mission is to beat Google in the search market, it's probably wise to give your upstart search engine a name that people know how to pronounce. It's also wise to make sure that it appears in the first page of search results for its own name. Cuil, the upstart search engine that debuted today with aspirations of unseating Google, has apparently done neither," he wrote.

He's not alone in his dislike for the company's name. IDC analyst Caroline Dangson flagged the nam she called it "terrible" as one of what she considers the company's main challenges.

"Cuil has an uphill battle in getting more consumers to search its site instead of Google. Google wins hands down for brand recognition among U.S. consumers," she said via e-mail, adding that using Google has become a habit for a majority of search users.


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