Cuil: A new search engine to rival Google?

A new search engine by the name of Cuil – pronounced ‘cool’ – has just been launched on Sunday, 27 July 2008. As its name is supposedly the old Irish word for knowledge, and as I am a little obsessed about all things Irish, this announcement immediately aroused my interest.

Designed and operated by some former Google employees, its nice-looking info page claims that it is the largest search engine on the web, with the capacity to rival Google. Its info page claims:

“The Internet has grown exponentially in the last fifteen years but search engines have not kept up—until now. Cuil searches more pages on the Web than anyone else—three times as many as Google and ten times as many as Microsoft.

Rather than rely on superficial popularity metrics, Cuil searches for and ranks pages based on their content and relevance. When we find a page with your keywords, we stay on that page and analyze the rest of its content, its concepts, their inter-relationships and the page’s coherency.

Then we offer you helpful choices and suggestions until you find the page you want and that you know is out there. We believe that analyzing the Web rather than our users is a more useful approach, so we don’t collect data about you and your habits, lest we are tempted to peek. With Cuil, your search history is always private.

Cuil is an old Irish word for knowledge. For knowledge, ask Cuil.”

What I found really appealing is its promise not to keep track of your search history and other information (which is always something that has given me the heebies with Google):

“Privacy is a hot topic these days, and we want you to feel totally comfortable using our service. Because Cuil analyzes Web pages and not click-throughs, we don’t need to know your search history and habits. So our privacy policy is very simple: when you search with Cuil, we do not collect any personally identifiable information, period. We have no idea who sends queries: not by name, not by IP address, and not by cookie. Your search history is your business, not ours. We don’t need to keep logs of our users’ search activity, so we don’t.”

I clicked through the rest of the introductory pages to find out the meaning of “Cuil”. Here is their intriguing explanation:

“Tom Costello, our founder and CEO, comes from Ireland, a country with a rich mythology around the quest for wisdom. Cuil is the Gaelic word for both knowledge and hazel, and features prominently in ancient legend. One famous story tells of a salmon that ate nine hazelnuts that had fallen into the Fountain of Wisdom and thereby gained all the knowledge in the world. Whoever ate the salmon would acquire this knowledge.

A famous poet fished for many years on the River Boyne hoping to catch the Salmon of Knowledge. When he finally caught it, he gave it to his young apprentice Finn McCuil to prepare, warning him not to eat any. As Finn cooked the salmon he burnt his thumb and instinctively sucked it to ease the pain. And so it was Finn and not the poet who gained all the wisdom of the world. Finn went on to become one of the great heroes of Irish folklore. Any time he needed to know the answer to a question, he sucked his thumb.

As a child Tom poached salmon from the same spot on the Boyne where it is said the Salmon of Knowledge was caught.”

Methinks someone kissed the blarney stone once too many times. 😉

I read elsewhere, though, that the word should have been spelt “Cuill”, but that the final L was dropped because people found it easier to remember the name with one L: “We had a moment of silence for the departing L,” said Patterson (one of the founders), probably with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

Although I’m thrilled that there is another search engine out there, its promise to be better than Google and to index more pages than Google, Yahoo and Microsoft is failing abysmally for most users. My first searches yielded no results, just an error message that the server was overloaded and to try again. When I persevered, nothing happened, and the pages just didn’t load. I clearly wasn’t alone in these problems, judging from the plethora of responses to this Business Week article. Search Engine Land has published a good in-depth analysis of how the search engine has been performing since it launched yesterday, highlighting some of the problems.

Nonetheless, I will bookmark it and check it out from time to time, as I quite like their look and their blog-like three-column layout (once you are lucky enough to be favoured with a page of results). Hopefully these are just teething problems.

So check them out: http://www.cuil.com/

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