Google Is Cooler Than Cuil

Algorithms are funny. Build a great one, as Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock recommendations Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) and Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM  ) have, and billions of dollars usually follow. Build a poor one, and ... well, there's always cocktail-party stories of how you once worked on the Next Big Thing (NBT).

With all the press Cuil (pronounced "Cool") is getting, you'd think the upstart search engine is already the Next Big Thing; a digital property so hot that Wired's editors must be salivating. Well, they shouldn't be.

A comedy of digital errors
"I thought the layout for cuil.com was innovative. The search results, however, were inferior enough in my 10 minutes of play with it that I'll have to be somehow convinced to ever return again," wrote Fool.com co-founder and Chief Rule Breaker David Gardner yesterday, in a comment on another CAPS player's blog. "I tried 'rule breakers' on both, and the difference in terms of relevance and currency was extreme. Cuil.com essentially had a large list of links to our 1999 book. Google had the tags for Rule Breakers on CAPS, link to the Rule Breakers service, etc. One was so 1999, the other so 2008."

My experience mirrors David's, only worse. A quick vanity search -- oh come on, you know you do it, too -- yielded zero results. None. Nada. Bupkus. Now, I'm no Paris Hilton, but I have written more than 1,000 articles for The Motley Fool since 2003. On Google, that rates more than 9,400 hits.

Other times, Cuil was simply unavailable. Or loaded pages that appeared as if they would have yielded results if the hamsters running themselves ragged at HQ hadn't fallen off their wheels. A company representative told me via email that Cuil's servers had been swamped, which affected their ability to serve results.

"We're working on it and will get better," the email concludes. I've no doubt he's right; Cuil will get better with time and, when it does, it'll have a small effect on the search business.

The search for search
By "small," I mean, "a little better than barely noticeable." Think about how Cuil searches. Is the search itself better? Or are the results presented in a different and perhaps better format, as David suggests? I'd say it's the latter, and that is what's so darn disappointing.

Cuil is an indexer; a Google clone that decided to sift through three times more of the Web's garbage than others have. What's to stop Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , or IAC's (Nasdaq: IACI  ) Ask.com from doing the same? Answer: Nothing.

Contrast that with what Powerset has created. With its engine, users search Wikipedia via direct, plain-English queries. The experience almost makes real the semantic Web, which you can think of as the ship's computer in Star Trek: I ask a direct question, I get a direct answer. Cuil, like Google, doesn't provide that yet.

Where Cuil may prove useful is in organizing data for use in other software. But here, too, Google has an edge via its applications and partnerships with platform biggies salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM  ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) . What chance does Cuil search have of making it on the iPhone when Google Maps, and thereby Google search, is already embedded?

Not much. DoubleGoo understands that by creating software that aids with the management of data (i.e., Maps, YouTube, Applications, etc.), it's enhancing its core data collection (i.e., search) business. At a recent Fortune conference, company vice president Marissa Mayer said that Google News is responsible for $100 million in search revenue.

Take a free product and make it profitable; that's what you do when you're a genuine Rule Breaker. Cuil, at least the one we know right now, is still a faker.

Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick.

Fool.com contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Akamai and Google at the time of publication. He also had a position in Google's 2010 LEAP options and contributes to Rule Breakers, which counts both Google and Akamai as stock picks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 29, 2008, at 11:22 AM, ultro wrote:

    I tried cuil.com as well when I first read the article. Cuil.com has a long way to go.

    It was very slow, but then again I'm sure they are in sort of beta stage, but even for beta it should be working better than that.

  • Report this Comment On July 29, 2008, at 2:20 PM, AYECARUMBA wrote:

    Perhaps the most telling sign of Cuil.com's prowess, is that a search for "cuil" does not yield a link to the search page itself.

  • Report this Comment On July 30, 2008, at 12:16 PM, anothertwit wrote:

    I first had a look at cuil after noticing an article stating that the work 'cuil' was the Irish for 'Knowledge' and 'hazel nut' though they seem to have removed the hazel nut bit. http://www.cuil.com/info/.

    Cuil is the Irish for 'back' (coll is the Irish for hazelnut) which the could of found on google before the current flurry of articles about them.

    I would like to see and alternative to google, but cuil inspires no confidence. Google took off because it was better than the competition from the start. Cuil can't even find it self as already mentioned (compared with the site plus many pages of media coverage on google) enough said.

    P

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2008, at 1:21 PM, joshclss wrote:

    Amazing how cuil has managed even to upset moms. What's next, bunnies and kitties?

    http://parentzing.wordpress.com

    When you start messing with the mamas, you're in trouble.

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