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.”

32 thoughts on “Cuil not so cool”

  1. I was fiddling around shortly before the site went down too and also got that error. My suspicion is that it was a symptom of over use and the servers were simply saying no more. I shall give it another try once the hype dies down and they increase capacity. I’m not ready to write it off quite yet.

  2. Well,

    As of 7:24AM today it appears that you can’t reach Cuil from the eastern seaboard US.

    It appears that Cuil didn’t plan well for capacity.


  3. Nice Post Karen. Actually the black front page may do well for them if they take off. Good contrast to the whiteness of Google.

    Cuil is ok. Not as amazing as hyped up. I did a bit more research and wrote about it today on the blog, shortly after discovering it. They seem to over index and under deliver. I’m sure it’ll improve in time. $33 million in funding, with ex Google employees and a great concept.

    But will it kill Google? lol… i v much doubt it!!

    Vince (HongKongWong.Com)

    BTW I also just wrote further thoughts on Cuil and some facts about the company here on my blog if interested:

  4. I just blogged about it too.

    The “relevant” results in Google was always less than perfectly satisfying. I wanted accurate results. For years, a search on “To be or not to be” came up with 2 or 3 pages in the top 10 that did not even contain the phrase. People at Google told me that this was because Google was giving me what I thought I wanted as opposed to what I told it to find. I’ve seen other bad results too.

    If Cuil could ensure accurate results, and have 3 times as many pages, I might like it. But only if there is a cache.

  5. Seems to be up and running, but
    – the results are so slow
    – the results seem to be political correct and filtered. just check out sex. first result… sex pistols… wtf?
    – there are not enough results on a page.
    – the layout has massive web2.0 fancyness which doesn’t help at all
    just my 2 cents 🙂

  6. Cuil is not cool. If you click the ‘info’ link on their hompage you get page-not-found. I cuiled my company name and got zero – I googled my company name and got tons of correct results.

    Cuil = Not Cool.

  7. After reading about this site on Yahoo! (I assume Yahoo! feels no pressure from them since they are publishing an article about a potential future competitor), I had to test it out.

    Wow…where is the relevancy?
    I had to google “cuil” just to find out info about the site because Cuil couldn’t find any info about itself. Pretty sad.
    Maybe the site was just leaked too early and they really didn’t intend for anyone to visit it just yet.

    Another poster mentioned the contrast of the color scheme. BFD?
    Who cares about the colors? Maybe in the future this would be a topic of consideration…but the site can’t return good results.

    And I tried numerous search terms – easy ones and hard ones…(including “cuil” as previously mentioned) and could not find a good relevant return.

    My other question is…Why are these ex-employees out to seek vengeance against their former employer? Did Google really screw them over?

    Or maybe their skills weren’t up to par by Google standards and that is why their search engine doesn’t function correctly.

    30 million dollars later….and we can’t even compete with dmoz?


    I wish them all the best and hope that I read good news in the future regarding their abilities.

  8. Search “New York Statute of Repose” = No hits.
    Search “Statute of Repose” = tons of hits.
    Like I’m going to search through 50 states worth
    of data when all I want is New York data :>(
    Cuil is definitely not ready for prime time
    when it can’t even accommodate search qualifiers.
    I’ll stick with Google.

  9. Hi Charles H.,

    I initially had the same problem as you re the ‘info’ page but it does sometimes come up. The whole site is clearly not able to cope with the amount of traffic. As Gerhard said “It appears that Cuil didn’t plan well for capacity.”


  10. The one thing I noticed is no spelling sugestion. I am a horrible speller and this feature is important to me.


  11. Why is this internet so full of complainers, I didn’t see any of them forking over millions of their dollars to start a new venture?
    Sure there are going to be many bugs but has everyone forgot that Google didn’t take off like a rocket either in the beginning.

  12. I don’t think this is really ready for users yet.
    I did a search for ” las vegas web design company”, no results, said the term was too large…
    went to “vegas web design comany”, again, no results, term was too large….
    “las vegas web design” shows no company pages, only directory sites.

    It has to improve on long search terms before it is really ready. I would like to see a valid competetor, but these guys are not there yet.

  13. I agree with your post, having taken this so-called “Cruil” nonsense for a test drive. A 4-word combo kills Cruil. And searching for “cruil” in their own search engine yielded: Wholinks2me Cuil Aodha. 🙂

    I doubt I’ll try it again. 🙂

  14. It sucks! It’s even worse than MSN search. I can’t believe there is so much buzz about this. I couldn’t find what I was looking for 20 minutes. Result page is hard to read and overloaded. Don’t expect to find your own website. What a misfire. They will never ever beat Google.

  15. The problem with cuil, is that the search engine market is just not there anymore. The big 3, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft are pretty much taking up all the search market. Unless They lose focus on search, which is not likely to be the case, the search war is pretty much over.

    Trying to beat Google and others in its own game, is not possible, period. New ways of searching for information is the better approach, IMHO. Such as question and answer systems, community based social networks, etc.

    For example, I have started a search based question and answer bilingual site, mainly serving overseas Chinese community,, I think with user contribution and good content, it should hold a better future.

    These days, it is all a matter of finding a good niche search based market, and delve into it. General search market is already a done deal.

  16. I think that Cuil will go down but that it might help convince Google to make a more Cuil-like interface in the future. To those who are saying that theyre filtering out porn: it doesnt seem to be so. It just seems to be very hit-or-miss. I’ve tried sending the same single-word queries a dozen times each and gotten different results each time, ranging from 0 to a few pages to a lot.

  17. These days everyone wants to be next Google, however some people just don’t get it. Google is Google and very hard to come even close. Yahoo,a big company and cannot compete with Google, so how could you expect anything from this

    Remember how many people tried to take PayPal down, back 3-4 years ago there was big number of so called Paypal Clones out there, how many did last, none.

    This Cuil thing….hmmm just don’t waste calories on them.


  18. How do they make money, anyway? Are they planning to introduce paid ads, or are the search results themselves paid ads? Doing a bunch of random queries, I dont see a terribly strong emphasis on putting commercial sites near the top. I searched up “soap” and none of the results is a soap company. It also created tabs for “Soap Making”, “Soap Opera”, etc. It seems like a good idea.

  19. Hey where can I get 30 million to try this?

    I’d like to create a lame search engine while paying myself 2 million per year and I’ll hire my wife at 2 million per year and I’ll hire my kids at 500k each and then I’ll retire and blame the failure on someone else.

    It is the American way isn’t it?

  20. I searched for New York State Small Business Development Center; it actually suggested it after I had typed New York State Sm

    We didn’t find any results for “New York State Small Business Development Center”
    Some reasons might be…

    a typo. Please check your spelling.
    your search includes a term that is very rare. Try to find a more common substitute.
    too many search terms. Please try fewer terms.
    Finally, try to think of different words to describe your search.

    It’s the first item on Google. Meh.

    And as a matter of vanity, I cuiled my blog ( and it showed on the 7th page, while it’s on the first page on Google.

  21. Where on earth does Cuil find the images it puts next to the results? I did a search on UKeiG and only one of the results on the first page had an image from the page/site.

  22. Perhaps it is just a joke gone too far? Still, it is only so, very early days yet. I think everyone just at least give them 12 – 24 months and then review how they are going. Still don’t think much of the domain name though.

  23. My SEO guy tells me that long tailed keyword phrases are the way to go for small business online. By what you say Cuil is not up to it. It’s going to take something a lot bigger to topple Google.

  24. I would say nice try, Cuil cannot run against Google in any way. Yahoo tried and we all see what is happening with them lately. Don’t get me wrong I support Yahoo as much as Google, but at this very moment don’t see anyone who can compete with the giant.

    Cuil was most likely built out of some kind of anger (because that person no longer works for Google) and I understand, but no company ever built such reputation over night, well maybe some day…

    Great Post,
    SEO Agent

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