Two years ago, Cuil was a potential Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) killer. Today, it's dead.

TechCrunch's Michael Arrington reports that the company has shut down and sent employees home after failing to close a deal with a potential acquirer. No word on who that might have been, though I'd bet good money on Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) or Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO).

More than $30 million in venture capital will be sacrificed at Cuil's grave, with lead investors Greylock Partners, Madrone Capital Partners, and Tugboat Ventures taking the hit, according to TechCrunch's reporting.

No celebrating, please. These were willing entrepreneurs who took a shot and missed. In tech, this happens far more than any of us would care to admit. Google, in particular, hasn't been kind to competitors. Anyone else remember Alta Vista?

Created by now-defunct Digital Equipment Corp., Alta Vista was a feature-rich search system that allowed for commands to sharpen search results. Google was the Johnny-come-lately in this area.

Like Alta Vista, Cuil was also an innovator. While Google breaks the Internet into untold numbers of manageable chunks and searches an index stretching across what's estimated to be more than 1 million servers, Cuil indexed more content than its larger rival and stored it all on -- wait for it -- 150 servers.

As it turned out, scale didn't matter nearly as much as accuracy, and Google proved more precise than Cuil. And yet the company performed a service for us common investors: It forced Google to get better. Google Instant is a byproduct of competition from Cuil, other search engines, and social media services such as Twitter and Facebook.

Cuil also proved that search isn't easy technology. And while there will always be those who want to eat Google's cake, finding the right fork is a lot harder than it looks.  

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Who will be the next Cuil? Which companies will succeed where Cuil failed? Share your thoughts in the comments box below, and if you're interested in Google, click here to add it to your Foolish watchlist.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy had a nice weekend, thanks. Yours?