Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New search engine: cuil.com

Search engines are -- at this point -- a key to a useful web.

Google entered the market some 10 years ago, and basically trounced sites such as Altavista. And the primary reason it was able to beat out all competitors is that it is simple and useful.

Simple? Even the page design is simple, clean, uncluttered. The page loads easily and quickly. The site is obviously there for one reason. There are no extraneous graphics, designs, or anything. It's not pretty. It's just, well, to get to our next issue, useful.

Useful because Google does one thing (at least with their flagship page) and does it well.

But better things always come along. So when I heard of a new search engine -- cuil.com -- pronounced "cool" -- I checked on it. And frankly, I wasn't impressed.

The site is pretty. Much prettier than Google's. But I'm not looking for beauty. Does the site appearance detract from the search capability? I don't know.

My concern is with cuil.com's usefulness. What I like about Google is that it's intuitive. For example, if I want to check the price of Citigroup stock (stock symbol "C") I enter "C" (just the letter; nothing else) on the Google search, and I get the current price of Citigroup stock. Along with a lot of other information, of course, but I get that immediately. Cuil doesn't give me that.

Another example: enter an address. Google will usually give you a map of the address. Not 100% of the time, but most. (For reasons I don't understand, finding directions on Google has fallen down some in the last few months. It still works, but just not quite as good as in the past). Cuil provides nothing like that. Full addresses often provoke a "We didn’t find any results for" response.

So I won't be going to Cuil. I wish them the best, but this doesn't seem fully functional yet. When I used Google the first time very shortly after they'd begun operation, I was immediately struck by how good and helpful it was. It needed no selling. Cuil, however, struck me as more annoying than anything else. It needs work and tweaking to make it into something useful for web users.

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