Cuil Crashes And Burns At Launch

Smoking servers ain't so cool

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Crashing right after launch is, apparently, a startup rite of passage. If, however, you’ve touted your new search engine as a Google killer, you might want to make sure crashes can’t happen. Google never goes down, and quite simply, can’t be killed with overloaded servers.

After Powerset’s sudden sale to Microsoft, the blogosphere needed a new contender. A former Google search architect and her Stanford professor husband, along with other former Googlers operating under the protective wing of the anti-noncompete laws of California (a law, ironically, Google likes to leverage when it can), thought for sure they could provide that new challenger.

And then all went blank at Cuil (cool), which was touted to have thrice the index of Google, scanning 121 billion web pages. Servers today couldn’t keep up with demand, illustrating what Powerset foresaw as their biggest hurdle: scalability. Microsoft provided that, along with enough cash to see it through. Even if you could get a query to return something today, though, reviews of the results have been mixed.

The results are supposed to be an alternative to Google’s ranking system, which is often criticized for being more of a popularity contest (among a myriad other criticisms) in the search results. Hence all the Wikipedia and YouTube returns.

Cuil is said to operate differently from Google’s distributed server, load-balancing concept—which incidently handles about a trillion URLs several times daily and manages to stay online—and has its servers divided according to category. If one searches for a sports-related query, for example, there are designated sports servers to handle that. One issue, as we’re seeing today: If a spike in sports queries knocks the sports servers offline, other non-specialized servers specializing in, say, cooking, will handle the results instead.

In that event, you get either no results or bad ones, which is likely the cause of all the subsequent, to put it lightly, disappointment following initial launch hype. I thought an ego-search would be sufficiently simple for it—there couldn’t be that many sources to pull from. After a few minutes, Cuil did bring back several instances where my articles have appeared on TechMeme, and once from the New York Times’ Blogrunner. A few images accompany the results, none of which are of me, one of which appears to be a female.

There’s an interesting "Explore by Category" section currently (more than a few minutes later) unclickable to see where they lead, categorizing me, interestingly, under Critics of Scientology, Investigative Journalists, American Bloggers, Scottish Premiere League Players, Villages in Illinois, and Black and White Films.

Yes, there are other Jason Lee Millers, several of them, one of them an up-and-coming young actor, who is noticeably absent from Cuil’s results. But he did change his name to Jason L. Miller noticing, I imagine, how I dominated Google under that name. Also noticeably absent from Cuil: any result from WebProNews, which would seem the most relevant.

Cuil criticism is catching on. Fark, to put it mildly, was unimpressed along with scores of other bloggers. Someone zapped me this image from Photobucket, which appears to be a Wikipedia entry popping up at some point during the day before being edited back to the more positively-spun version. Is it or isn’t it? Doesn’t matter. It expresses a rising viewpoint on the Web today, as evidenced even on Google Hot Trends, where the phrase "cuil sucks" just made the number 2 biggest gainer spot.

So far, Cuil the Google Killer is a colossal flop. Could it recover? Maybe, but it’ll probably be really hard to get all the people on board this morning to give it another shot. 


Cuil Crashes And Burns At Launch
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  • akarsh

    did couple of searches in Cuil no use for most of the search  i got " We didnt find any results" . Forget about being competitor to google ;Cuil first needs to set the search criteria right.

  • scribbler

    I was curious to test to test it so I inserted a search phrase ("de klerk"), that typically gets around 650 000 Google results. I hit enter and it got NOTHING. I went back 20 minutes later and tried the same and it threw a up a couple of results, but posted next to articles of former South African president (FW) de klerk and Nobel prize winner were pictures of bikini-clad models.

    There is a lesson in here for the vain, that boasts of greatness require at least some sort of basis.

  • Guest

    I sure hope Cuil grows to be a great competitor, but try misspelling a word it throws you no results where google suggests the corect spelling to better your search, which I think is a simple yet powerful feature.

    For some odd reason after playing around with it I noticed that sometimes it shows millions of results but there are no pages to page through…. mmmmhhh makes me wonder how many results they actually get…

    Anywayz Good luck to Cuil I will definitely visit their site often expecting some improvements XD

  • http://www.jumbocdinvestments.com CD Interest Rates

    For those that say they need time, they had as much time as they wanted.  Cuil made the decision to go public before it was ready to do so.  Competition is good, but it was Cuil doing the trash talking.  And it was Cuil that didn’t deliver. 

    They have a lot of issues and should have worked through them before going public.

  • http://www.rankbetterseo.com/ seo web design

    Rand over at SEOmoz did a personal study of 4 search engines and how Cuil compares.  Its a pretty interesting article.

  • http://www.fund.com Investment News

    WOW that is crazy.  I dont know if this was the right time for them to launch

  • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron angel

    seems to work ok for older stuff (12months plus) but does not seem to find

    the small new stuff & sites that have not been up that long.only time will tell

    if it will take over from google or just supplement it.


  • http://www.flowersbypost.com flowers by post

    Live/ MSN search already but thats not tough.

    Its region targetting is way off at the moment, pulls back some pretty US focused results from the UK which makes it a bit rubbish.

    But I guess give it some time….


  • http://www.lightingsupply.com commercial lighting

    It wont pickup newer site.  Kinda of a bumer.

  • Guest

    Cuil is not cool or kool or anything else. It sucks. How can anyone launch such a mess. At least Google is smart enough to put a Beta tag on their experiments.

  • Guest

    George Bush Is Behind Cuil Launch. He has got to be. It is just about as screwed up as everything else he has done.

  • Guest


    I don’t think so.  Maybe the shape of it was too much of a paradigm shift for an oldtimer like me, but the first search I did just looked like a big mess.

    Some of the acoompanying images it served up made some sort of sense and some were just random bits of borders or menus.

    And try searching for "cuil" on Cuil.  When I did it didn’t find itself.

    Somehow I just don’t see "Cuil" taking over from Google.  When people want to find something they will be "Googling it" for some time to come.  I just don’t think people are going to want to "Cuil it".


  • Bill Harrison

    When I saw my lights dim, I knew that Cuil was coming on-line. Now, If could just find my front door I would be fine….or my back door…

  • Hendy

    Obama  must be the brains behind Cuil. This is his vision of change.

  • Hendy

    All kidding aside….Bush… Obama.

    I just searched for Builder Puurchasing Services. They come up number 1 on GOOGLE, but nowhere to be found on Cuil. Maybe Cuil is not what it claims to be.

    • Hendy

      I meant Builder Purchasing Services. I can’t type well.

      • Guest

        No ya didnt! ..you meant PUURCHASING Ha HA I  seen ya do it ..i did too i did! ~ ..

        I’ma tellin everybody that its now Puurchasing builders…NANNER NANNER!~


        you are new at blogging advertisement for your business :)

        thats what everybody does.. makes typos the nfreaks out = "oh My frigign GOSH!~ " .

        then you realize ..  well , not THAT big of a deal ..except, I instantly dont like your company now because Puurchase is a weird word :)

        lol  j/k

        what you DONT want.. is for somebody to email that post to your business. and then your boss comes in saying = "… who posted this and why is it spelled out like an idiot wrote it?" ..LOL


  • Grayson

    A person comes to the page to read the article, then if they choose to they can comment.  You shouldn’t try to force comments before the user even has a chance to read the article.  I tried to send this article to my boss but with all the SQL injection attacks we have seen recently that plant an IFrame and forward you to a page to download a virus as soon as she realized it was redirecting her she closed the page.  This is in really bad form and this will lose you alot of current readers and possibly make potential new readers think twice before returning to your site.

    Not to mention I got my copy of your news letter today and it was FULL of dead links.  I had to work hard to find the stories you are offering me.  That shouldnt be.

    Thanks for the great work but you should really think about changing both the forwarding practice and your QC on the news letter.

  • http://www.web30technology.com Christopher Conlan

    Sort of noticed the crash myself, but after waiting for the lookey loos to get out of the way I went back.  The speed is pretty good and that’s where their real "technology" lies — in the way they cluster the data.

    The results layout is "fresh", but may not appeal to users who are used to the simple, straight forward results layout of Google.

    We’ll see where it lands, but my guess is that they’re angling for a tax-free stock swap with Google for the server technology and then move on to another search project, just like they did 4 years ago.

    Go néirí leat


  • http://www.fiancee-visa.net fiancee visa attorney

    I think at some point the community will make a choice and will either accept the new search platform or reject it.

  • http://www.mgnlaw.com chicago personal injury

    Yeh they should have dome some further testing to determine market need.

  • John

    With power/space concerns increasing for data centers, I hope people reading this don’t get the impression that scalability is addressable just by adding more servers.  It comes down to (as most things IT-wise do) planning and technology awareness.  There are alternatives when it comes to scaling and preventing peak-loading meltdowns….if the app is written in Java, my company (www.azulsystems.com) makes a network appliance that eliminates scaling problems and is widely deployed in finance and ecommerce shops for that reason.  For .net, php, and other apps there are no equivalent hardware solutions, but several software-based approaches can help also.  No way is this a badge of honor for Cuil ("we’re so hot we’re not") – it shows they didn’t plan to be a real company. 

  • DRead

    It doesn’t even seem to count properly. Try searching for something really obscure that will return only a few items. In my case, searching for "37 hour clock" (in quotes to *try* limiting it to that exact string). Cuil tells me there are 8 hits, but only shows me 7. There is only one "page" so that isn’t the problem. My conclusion is that they’re off by one (hopefully it isn’t worse than that). If they can’t even get that right, well…?

  • http://www.swankigifts.com/article/cosmetics cosmetics articles

    I think testing and market research should have been included in this launch.

  • http://www.articleblip.com/article/health articleblip.com

    i agree there should have been more testing.

  • http://thehotspotguide.com Guest

    I have a free online dating site called thehotspotguide.com and every thing I have tried gets no results on cuil.

  • http://www.articlesdb.co.cc Free Reprint Content

    I wont test it

  • http://www.leglessfool.com Guest

    I work with the search engines everyday and about one week ago I added Cuil to my set routines. I am not impressed at all and now I have dropped it from my set routines until I am sure that I can get better/ more realistic results with it, I may check it out again in the New Year.

  • Don

    some satire about the cuil adsense alternative


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