Cuil not so cool

Cuil, pronounced ‘cool’, was launched today claiming to have the largest database of all the search engines and more relevant results. A detailed article on the company’s background, together with a critique of its PR, can be found on Search Engine Land – Cuil Launches — Can This Search Start-Up Really Best Google?

Cuil’s index of 120 billion web pages might indeed make it the most comprehensive search engine on the web. Google no longer discloses the size of its index, although it claims to “know about a trillion unique web pages”.  Techcrunch has put Cuil through its paces (Google Beats Cuil Hands Down In Size And Relevance, But That Isn’t The Whole Story and says:

“It seems pretty clear that Google’s index of web pages is significantly larger than Cuil’s unless we’re randomly choosing the wrong queries. Based on the queries above, Google is averaging nearly 10x the number of results of Cuil.”

Many of Techcrunch’s searches are single word searches and Google’s hit count is never accurate for those and is usually grossly overestimated. Add in more terms and the hit count starts to approach reality. My test searches found approximately the same number of pages in both Cuil and Google, apart from those queries that had more than three terms. For example, my standard ‘gin vodka sales UK’ search came up with:


This is a simple search for which all of the other major search engines find a highly relevant answer from the Gin and Vodka Association (yes there really is one) . Reduce the number of keywords to a maximum of three and Cuil recovers but returns irrelevant results. It looks as though Cuil cannot cope with long search queries and this could be related to the way it ranks pages. It claims not to just catalog keywords on a site and then rank the site based on its importance; it also tries to understand how words are related. This seems to work best with one or two word queries. Results are shown in three columns and on the right hand side of the screen it offers options to refine your results by category. Apparently,  Cuil also recommends related searches in tabs across the top of search results but I never saw these in any of my test searches.

Cuil Results

So far I was not impressed and for me the final straw was the total absence of any advanced search features. No file format searching, no limiting to media types, no domain or site searching. I could be charitable and attribute the absence of results for multi term strategies to the service being new and not being able to cope with the traffic generated by the launch announcement. The relevance of the results from my test searches, though, was not sufficiently high for me to be able to dispense with advanced search. Cuil is going to have to try a lot harder if it is to persuade me to return. At present this is not a Google beater and neither does it out-perform the other top search engines.

P.S. Just as I finished this review the Cuil web site collapsed under the pressure. The home page now re-directs to:

We’ll be back soon…

Due to overwhelming interest, our Cuil servers are running a bit hot right now. The search engine is momentarily unavailable as we add more capacity.

Thanks for your patience.”

Guernsey Registry

The new Guernsey Registry was launched on 1 July 2008 following a review of the Companies (Guernsey) Law and the existing company processes. The Registry also includes the Bailiwick of Guernsey Intellectual Property Office which administers all Trade Mark and Design registrations and activities, and provides information on the Intellectual Property Laws enacted in the Bailiwick. As well as providing e-filing services for companies, there is a searchable database. You can search by registered number or company name (current and previous). Company number, name, type, status, registered address, activity, and date registered are available free of charge. Company profiles, certificates of good standing and of incorporation are priced as are the annual reports.  There is a link to the Companies (Guernsey) Law 2008, which can be downloaded free of charge.  Be warned – it is 569 pages long!

BookMooch – book swap

BookMooch lets you give away books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want. Every time you give someone a book, you earn a point and can get any book you want from anyone else at BookMooch. You receive a tenth of a point for every book you make available on BookMooch, and one point each time you give a book away. In order to keep receiving books, you need to give away at least one book for every three you receive. You receive three points when you send a book out of your country, to help compensate you for the greater mailing cost, but it only costs the moocher two points to get the book. Sounds a little complicated but in practice the process is very straightforward. The only minor downside is that it taps into the Amazon database and if your book is not listed on Amazon – and Amazon does sometimes manage to mess up bibliographic data – you can’t add it to your BookMooch ‘inventory’.

Say no to 0870 – alternative telephone numbers

Say No to 0870 has been around for a while but it is only recently that I have had to make serious use of its database. I have been researching hotel business meeting facilities and was amazed at how many still use 0870 numbers. My middle name ought to be ‘Scrooge’ because I resent having to pay for a phone call when I could be connecting using my mobile’s very generous free minutes (geographic numbers only) allocation. When that is used up, I have various VOIP services that I can use for a few pence.

This web site gives alternative geographic numbers for 0800, 0808, 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871 numbers. Search on the company name or its non-geographic number and you are offered alternative geographic numbers. Sources include web sites and contributions from users. You may wonder why freephone numbers are included: these often take you to a central call centre or redirect you to a branch location based on your telephone area code (if available). You then spend what seems to be forever trying to get connected to the right branch or location. “No I don’t want to book a room …. and, yes, I know I am phoning from Newcastle but I want to contact the Events Sales Manager for Whizzo Hotels in Oxford!”

Allplus search tool

Allplus is yet another search tool that searches Ask, Google, Live and Yahoo in one go. As well as web pages, you can also search the News, Image, Video and Blog databases of the search engines. Moreover is added to the mix for News. In addition to displaying the results for your selected type of information, it  gives you items from the other resources on the right hand side of the page.  On the left hand side of the screen, it organises your results into a ‘cluster tree’ and you can also view a ‘cluster graph’.  Clicking on the topic in the tree or graph brings the pages in that cluster to the top of the results list and is a useful way of focussing your search.


Interlend 2008

The presentation and workshop that I gave at the Interlend 2008 conference in Peebles are now available at . As well as the PowerPoints there are links to versions available on Slideshare and authorSTREAM.

The tag for the conference was interlend08. Two of us were regularly ‘twittering’ at the conference and most of our tweets are on Hashtags and Twemes (search on interlend08) .  A record of my own tweets is at and