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Monday, July 28, 2008

Cool Cat Teacher's Take on Cuil's New Search Engine



Cuil launches today from some disenfranchised Google Employees, according to the Associated Press.

In the article, founder Anna Patterson says that Google has looked virtually unchanged for the last 10 years and talks about the magazine like spread of the search. After I searched for "flat classroom" I got this page that said it had "14,431 results."


When I search Google, this is my result of over 4 million results.


When I compare the two -- the top two on Google are actually from the project itself. Then, on the Google engine there is a 2006 post from Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach that uses the term "flat classroom" and is highly linked, but really, it is not too current.

Then, on Cuil, the wiki isn't even indexed. (I have a feeling that wikispaces isn't there yet.) However, the Ning does show up with an interesting graphic on the top left corner that says "My Success in Scientology" -- it says the image is coming from the Ning, but I cannot find that image anywhere. I really don't like the image and wonder if it is advertising, but yet, clicking on the image takes me to the ning. So, although including a graphic is nice, it should be relevant and from the proper site.


When I take a look at preferences on the engine, this is what I get:
Just basic preferences are available here.

Drilling down, their start page:

Here, they claim to be the biggest search engine. But they also do not collect information about users. A concept which many have criticized Google for doing.

So, lets look at some of the features they have added. They have suggested categories when you type something in. While, this is very cool when looking at something very general like their suggested search "jaguar" -- this is what I get when I type in my own name:

Let's look at the categories for my name:

The suggested categories seem pretty random as I'm not aware of Vicki Davis being a power ranger, although some might agree with "Extraterrestrial Supervillains."
The tabs can be cool too and suggest major topics:
They also seem to have not gotten down the spacing and algorithm thing down yet. When I type in "coolcatteacher" it finds my profile page and page on twitter, however, when I type "Cool Cat Teacher" -- it finds Nothing!


It doesn't seem to have indexed some of the sites I really like to browse like Wikispaces. Also, as I browsed through their site, I found that their Faq's page was available and then not available.

I did see it once, but now it is gone. (perhaps they are updating their own site?)

OK, so after all of this, what is my "take" on Cuil versus Google.

Cuil's Big Plus
The interface is pretty cool, when it works. That is a big when it works, however. From my playing with the engine, it was broad, general searches that typically would bring in a lot of pages. It aims to be sort of a visual Northern Light, however, if it was only as robust as Northern Light it would be a killer. (Northern Light still remains one of my favorite search engines besides Google.) (Just look up Cuil on Northern Light to see the power this sort of interface can have.)

I love the idea of tabbed and category searches -- if the tabs and categories are accurate. I also like the idea of not feeling like anyone is looking over my shoulder.

Where Cuil Falls Sort (for now)
With a highly capitalized start up, surely this site will evolve rapidly. For now, it seems there are whole swaths of the web that are not pulled into the index (eg. wikispaces). The spacing and capitlization algorithms don't seem to be there yet either.

So, for me, Cuil is something new to add to my firefox toolbar search (just perform a search of any kind in Cuil and you can find the link to do this) but is not a replacement for my iGoogle start page. Honestly, I don't know of anyone that starts up on the Google home page itself -- Cuil should really make an igoogle widget of its own.

Also, its claim to have more pages than Google when it is not quite up to snuff yet is going to hurt its credibility in the long run. I'm not sure why they didn't launch in "beta" so that we'll excuse the hitches and glitches, but they didn't.

It is one of those wait and see kind of things. But for now, keep an eye on Cuil.
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