A new search-engine platform was unveiled Monday by some former Google engineers to compete with the leading search site. Dubbed Cuil and pronounced "cool," the new company claims to combine the largest Web index with content-based relevance, results organized by ideas, and complete user privacy. Cuil said it has indexed 120 billion Web pages, three times more than any other search engine.
"The Web continues to grow at a fantastic rate and other search engines are unable to keep up with it," said Tom Costello, CEO and cofounder of Cuil. "Our significant breakthroughs in search technology have enabled us to index much more of the Internet, placing nearly the entire Web at the fingertips of every user."
Costello said Cuil presents searchers with content-based results, not just popular ones. He's convinced Cuil's approach provides "different and more insightful answers that illustrate the vastness and the variety of the Web."
As Cuil's founders describe it, the search engine goes beyond today's search techniques of link analysis and traffic ranking to analyze the context of each page and the concepts behind each query. It then organizes similar search results into groups and sorts them by category. Cuil displays results and offers organizing features, such as tabs to clarify subjects, images to identify topics, and search-refining suggestions.
"Cuil seems to be quite flexible about many aspects of the product. They have built a back end with a large index and a different approach to search ranking. But the company seems to be somewhat agnostic about how all that is presented," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. "I am sure we'll see changes and refinements and experiments with the interface."
Sterling said there is an opportunity to build a better mousetrap, but Cuil has some hurdles to jump, primarily consumer behavior. Indeed, the test with new technologies is whether people will try it -- and whether they will find enough value to try it again. One of the reasons Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask have struggled against Google is because it's difficult to change user behavior, he said.
"Cuil's stance is that Microsoft and Yahoo have essentially been trying to emulate what Google's doing, and that doesn't give users much of an incentive to use them instead of Google," Sterling said. "There's a fair amount of truth to that perception. There's a me-too quality to most of the search engines out there."
A Core Google Search Team
Cuil's technology was developed by a team with extensive history in search. The company is led by husband-and-wife team Tom Costello and Anna Patterson. Costello researched and developed search engines at Stanford University and IBM. Patterson is best known for her work at Google, where she was the architect of the company's large search index and led a Web page-ranking team.
The duo refused to accept the limitations of current search technology and dedicated themselves to building a more comprehensive search engine. Together with former Google engineer Russell Power, they founded Cuil to give users an opportunity to explore the Internet more fully.
"Since we met at Stanford, Tom and I have shared a vision of the ideal search engine," said Anna Patterson, president and COO of Cuil. "Our team approaches search differently. By leveraging our expertise in search architecture and relevance methods, we've built a more efficient yet richer search engine from the ground up. The Internet has grown and we think it's time search did, too."