Cuil-ing off the Volcanic Buzz

Cuilhome_id
Yesterday, Google Trends called the buzz on Cuil-related searches "volcanic." Their PR team is brilliant, scoring press in all the major papers and trades by playing up the size of its index and how it’s run by ex-Googlers. Surely a couple disgruntled former employees are the ones who can overtake the Googleplex, right? I mean, think of all those ex-PayPal guys who started that new payment platform, or ex-Amazon guys who started that major retail site… oh, umm, that hasn’t happened? Well, there’s always a first time, and why not do it in style by taking on the Google?!

Alright, I can relax a bit. I already wrote something on Cuil for Ad Age, but I’ll give you a little something extra here in a sec, and maybe I’ll still have some more material for MediaPost on Thursday. I really hope there’s something left to say by then, otherwise you can skip that. Here’s how the Ad Age piece starts:

In this superhero-obsessed summer, it’s about time everyone found an
underdog to root for. In a feat as inexplicable as Tony Stark
fashioning scrap metal into an Iron Man suit in an Afghan prison,
Cuil.com gained almost iPhone-like levels of publicity for its launch
yesterday. Yet Cuil (pronounced "cool" — get ready for a new swath of
Web 2.0 words that don’t sound anything like how they’re spelled) is
due for a run-in with Mr. Freeze as its media mojo gets put on ice.

I first found out about Cuil 12:31am Monday, when the press release came my way, and I happened to be online at that hour. I was underwhelmed from the release; I wasn’t expecting it to go anywhere. If I thought it was the story of the year, I’d have blogged about it right there.

What I did was write back the sender. The release says it has the biggest index of any engine, beating the nearest rival by three times as much.

Thanks for the update. I’ll try out the engine.

Yet how do you justify the press release when Google says it indexes over 1 trillion pages? http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/we-knew-web-was-big.html

The contact there responded:

Google "knows of" 1 trillion links. That is not the size of its index.

I reread Google’s post, and she’s right. The size of the index is debatable. Google hasn’t seemed to report on it in awhile. That’s because Google doesn’t seem to care.

I responded to the contact:

What is the size of its index then? And what’s Cuil‘s perspective on the comments below from Google regarding how it isn’t important to have the biggest index?

"We don’t index every one of those trillion pages — many of them are
similar to each other, or represent auto-generated content similar to
the calendar example that isn’t very useful to searchers. But we’re
proud to have the most comprehensive index of any search engine, and
our goal always has been to index all the world’s data."

Now we have Cuil calling itself the "biggest search engine" with the largest index, and Google saying it has "the most comprehensive index." As I noted on 360i’s Digital Connections blog, the real size that matters is the user base, and then the size and share of ad revenues. Index size means nothing.

Meanwhile, several bloggers and journalists are reporting that Cuil is returning fewer search results for certain queries than Google. Several others have noted that the results are often irrelevant. In the categories to drill down for a search on "Cuil," you get Towns and Villages in Sligo, French Cuisine, French Breads, Lochaber, and Glens of Scotland. Cuil.com doesn’t even rank on page one. If it thinks it’s irrelevant for Cuil.com, then why would it be relevant for anyone else?