Poor Cuil, a victim of what I like to call “Teoma Syndrome.” Teoma, for those of you who weren’t geeking out on search engines ten years ago, was a search engine that launched in 2000. It got TONS of publicity. Lots of people made noise about it. It was the alleged Google killer. Ask.com bought it in September 2001, spent some time working on it, and then it just kind of… faded out of the public consciousness. It’s still at http://www.teoma.com/ if you want to try it. It’s not a bad engine, if you can ignore the smaller data pool and the fact that for every page of ten search engine results you get ten sponsored results (five above and five below.)
When Cuil was launched there was a similar level of fuss, a lot of press, and then poor reviews and some concern about results. Cuil had interesting ideas, but couldn’t compare to Google at launch.
But here’s the thing. If Cuil hadn’t been so constantly and overtly compared to Google, it could have stunk at launch and that would have been unfortunate but okay… it would have had the breathing room to get better. As it was, there were bad reviews at launch, it wasn’t Google, and it didn’t get the traction it could have. And that’s one of my complaints about this “Google killer” business.
The thing that kills Google — one week from now or ten centuries from now — will not look anything like Google. Yahoo and Ask are not threatening Google right now, Facebook and Twitter are. And if something like Facebook gains ascendancy, it won’t be a Facebook clone that overcomes it. It’ll be some site or service that we can’t imagine now, like BrainColorSearch, a USB-powered portable MRI that you hook to your computer while exploring the Internet. The portable MRI device scans your brain constantly as you search and each item of Internet content has an aggregated brain scan associated with it. Searchers using BrainColorSearch match for relevance and for a map that most consistently matches their brain (or how they have declared they want their brain to look — a specified mood.) Searchers end up exploring a Web that makes them the most neurologically comfortable. (Soon tweeners begin “Brain Bombing,” hacking the MRI devices to search for content items that generate bizarre, almost impossible MRI activity maps…)
Okay, that example was a bit goofy, but you get the idea. The next company to displace the leader will not be leader+10%, it’ll be something completely different and (at least for a while) strange.
Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yes, Cuil. Cuil has moved away from being a Web-type search engine and has announced a change to something different, an attempt to aggregate “instant reference” pages. Sort of like Mashpedia, which I reviewed last week. Cuil’s new effort, Cpedia, doesn’t seem to go to the breadth of Web properties that Mashpedia does, but I found the results more relevant in some cases with nice clustering.
Start your search at http://www.cuil.com and enter a topic. I used Benjamin Franklin as my test search with Mashpedia so I repeated it here. As you can see all the content in the result is from Web search — you won’t find Flickr, YouTube, etc here except as the byproduct of a Web search. The results were a little odd; the first one was “huh?”-inducing — I couldn’t figure out why it ranked higher than the Wikipedia article — but the rest of it was good content. There were other tabs across the top of the page to provide more targeted content — Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Benjamin Franklin House, etc.
There were also related topics on the right. The query Benjamin Franklin spawned such related topics as “Gentlemen Scientists,” “Continental Congressmen From Pennsylvania,” and “United States Presidential Candidates, 1808.” These headings show a list of topics which, when clicked, take you to a new page of search results (though in the same browser window, so open some tabs if you want to go off exploring.)
At the top of the topic list is a window that opens real-time results. I didn’t get any for Benjamin Franklin, so I tried cows and I only got one for that, so I tried Padres and then I got a bunch, from Twitter and other news services. A slider allows you to specify how recent you one the information to be, from last hour to last day. I am not normally one to comment on design, but it’s annoying to have the main search page designed vertically, and the streaming results designed horizontally.
I can imagine using Cpedia in a complementary fashion to Mashpedia. I’d come to Cpedia first, to explore content topically and zero in on the names/descriptions/topic headers that really find me what I want. Then I’d take those to Mashpedia and use them to explore certain parts of the Web (Flickr, YouTube, Twitter) more deeply.