Jul 292008

It seems that the new search site Cuil is off to a bit of a shaky start, and this new rival to Google does seem to be overreaching at present: in terms of useful results, it is frequently outclassed and it has a strange habit of illustrating search results with completely irrelevant graphics, often from completely unrelated sites! However, Google is a hard act to beat and the service has only just launched. A rival search engine to Google must be healthy for the internet, and it would be nice to think that Cuil will grow in strength – without being bought out to join Yahoo’s collection of failed search engines. However, a story about hazelnuts and salmon (section 4 of the FAQ) doesn’t excuse the choice of a Gaelic name (with unfamiliar orthography) for an international audience. “Google” is probably hard enough to pronounce for many people around the workd – and it is certainly hard enough for many people to remember or type – but it’s a lot catchier than “Cuil”!

There is however on the face of it one area in which Cuil already has the lead over Google, and that is respecting privacy. Compare Cuil’s brief privacy statement with the “Privacy Center” covering Google’s vast portfolio of Web services.

Here’s an example of practical differences: did you know that Google (which you might also be entrusting with your email, your calendars and all sorts of other personal data) keeps logs of your searches for 18 months before anonymizing them? Cuil says: “We do not keep logs of our users’ search activity”.

For this reason alone, Cuil should be supported, provided its current defects can be remedied swiftly. Web users are not patient and whilst Google is far from being the perfect search engine, Cuil is not yet in its league. For the sake of healthy competition and for a Web that does not pander to one search engine, let’s hope Cuil improves soon.


Right: entering “cuil” into Cuil yields results that might suggest a healthy lack of self-obsession. Or it might indicate something else entirely. Your call.

Note: experiments of this nature must never be attempted with Google.

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