Monday, July 28, 2008

Cuil: Color Me Unimpressed

OK, I had to go give Cuil a try. I should have known that something with a kewlio name like "cool" misspelled would be anything but.

I ran some searches that I'm familiar with the Google results, so I would have a point of comparison. Specifically, I tried the searches that most often hit my Atari 7800 site and other more common searches that I often use in class to demonstrate search engines for my students.

First, I came up with a "No Results Found" page. I'm afraid I laughed pretty loud when that popped up. Then I used the same terms in a different order.

"Want to find XX YY ZZ? We've got it!" "We're your source for XX YY ZZ! Buy Now!" jumped out at me. The first page of results had two people asking questions related to my subject, two pages that were relevant, three totally irrelevant pages, and four spam ads like the ones above (both on the first line.)

The second page was two relevant hits, three completely irrelevant hits, one more "how do I?" question with no answer, and five more spam ads. "Celebrity photos featuring XX YY ZZ!" Gee, I wonder where they fit the cables?

I did a number of other searches, but the results were about the same. Finding the one or two relevant results per page was tedious. The addition of irrelevant graphics to almost every hit didn't do anything to make finding the needle in the haystack any easier.

Scanning back and forth across three columns didn't help, either. Different doesn't mean better. It also made it harder to find results when going back to a page previously viewed. The odd, unbalanced layout resulted in empty space at the bottom right of the page that made it look like the results had been exhausted, when there were additional pages to view.

Google Killer?

The high incidence of spam results on my searches suggests that Cuil suffers from the same disease that drove me to Google in the first place. The last time I used one now-defunct search engine I closed the window on "We have got all your Hittite cuneiform right here!"

As much as the buzz makes out that this outfit is headed by some sort of search engine dream team, I find it hard to believe when I see results that look like something that was a PITA for me ten years ago. Not everybody with a successful company on their resume contributed to that company's success. Cuil looks like the QED to that.

I'd like to have another search engine that gives me relevant results without animated ads of imbeciles in chiaroscuro offending my sensibilities. Maybe Cuil can still pull it together. But dang, if this is the best they can manage for their grand unveiling, I'm not going to be hurrying back.