Cuil up and fall into obscurity

Remember upstart search engine Cuil? If you don't, we're not surprised. Cuil launched back in July of 2008 with tons of press coverage. Developed largely by former employees of Google the company claimed that their engine had a larger index then any other, with about 120 billion web pages in its database. It wasn't just bloggers and tech websites that talked about Cuil. CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, etc, all ran stories during prime time slots talking about how Cuil was the greatest search engine ever and how it would dethrone Google as the world's Internet search leader. Or at least give it a run for it's money.

Fast forward to October of 2008, and that upstart engine that was called a "Google killer" by some, has now managed to fall into obscurity in just a few short months.

According to the site Net Applications, market share for Cuil has continued to decline since its launch, rounding down to 0.00% at the end of September. Even sites like Excite and Lycos have better numbers then Cuil, and its hard to find anyone who still uses either of those services. (Excite had 0.04% and Lycos had 0.01%) Meanwhile Google, you know, that site that everyone was foaming at the mouth to pronounce Cuil would soon slaugher... maintains a "healthy" lead with 79.90% of the market. I put healthy in quotes because second place comes to Yahoo with an "exciting" 11.01%. I guess I just have an "affinity" for putting things in quotes.

Cuil's market share since launch, according to Net Applications

What is the explanation for this? Over hyped, maybe? Perhaps it was the fact the site didn't work correctly the day it was launched, because few outside of the company's inner-circle were allowed to fully test it before launch. While the company did a great job of briefing journalists and bloggers about how amazing their product was, it would seem they did little to actually make sure it could do what they said.

Maybe it's the fact that only one month after launching the site, Cuil's primary search engineer, and Product VP, Louis Monier, quit the company after disagreements with the CEO, Tom Costello. Monier was recruited away from Google to work for Cuil a little over a year ago. Prior to working at Google, he was the head of search at eBay and prior to that, he was the co-founder of AltaVista (which, by the way, still enjoys a "cool" 0.09% of the browser market.) Monier is widely considered to be the father of Internet search, and his absence from the company probably gutted most of its direction.

Maybe it was that Cuil's spider had a tendency to crash your website when it would index it. One sure fire way to get people to use your search engine is for it to not work as advertised and to break the sites you visit with it.

In the end it seems that Cuil's PR was better then its technology. Cuil was even able to raise nearly $33 million in venture capital prior to launch. If I was one the VC's who dropped significant money into this project, I would be asking for my money back.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that while doing research for this article... all Internet searches were performed with Google. Just like 80% of the world.

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There was nothing even remotely cool about Cuil from day one.

I did put it in my bookmarks after it was posted here the first time. Nothing but garbage results on anything I searched for.

I just wonder who their publicist/PR agent was. Getting respected sites such as BBC calling your product a "google killer" without any hint of doubt implies some serious $$$ was dropped.

Googles Search engine is great but there software is a resource hog, and terrible. Everyone of my clients have Google Desktop on there computers, being the Network Admin for there networks and getting complaints of slowdowns on there craptastic XP machines the main culprits for slowdowns were Google Desktop apps, and Symantec. My boss got so fed up with the constant calls that we've removed the ability to let users install both Symantec and Google apps there both a nightmare. So to say that Google has been designated the best due to there software is total BS.

I tried it when it first came out, I kind of like the way it displayed results... but erm, I wanted a simple answer and it couldn't provide anything remotely close to what I was asking for... it got, at best, in the general direction of where I was aiming. I am not 100% loyal to Google, its been failing me sometimes, but geez... shouldn't be that hard to get an answer.

I don't think Cuil's failure is related to technical issues alone (which is of course an important factor nevertheless) but rather due to poor management.

1) It was over hyped primarily by the company executives. The media was merely adding on top of it (albeit exhaggarating too).

2) Their tagline was "Google Killer" and they didn't get that title from the media either. The CEO was constantly bragging about their quantity of indexes + how their system worked different from Google which supposedly makes their results more relevant.

3) They were so confident that they didn't even release the product as a beta or alpha. I remember reading somewhere about this. The CEO explicitly said it was "production ready".

In the end, they made several fundamental business/management mistakes which they could've picked up from a $50 MBA/Psychology book.

1) You don't say "Google Killer" from the start. All it does is escalate the expectations of your consumers at such a high standard and therefore their comparison will be relative to the best in the market rather than a typical start ups. They actually threw out a big advantage here. Don't let your customers dream in the clouds. Let them see you as you are: *as a start up*. Start ups don't start off in the clouds, you start of from the ground. Cuil does have new and innovative features and if they hadn't called themselves as a Google Killer, the user's would've appreciated your features than work against you (as in blame about its poor quality).

2) I have a simple rule: "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst". I don't understand how they ever thought of it was "production ready". You should *always* release super ambitious projects such as this as an alpha or beta in its public release. Again simple psychology: if it were alpha/beta, then trust me, the public response would've been completely different. Most people would've been like "Its not better than Google but its still just beta, it'll obviously improve in time. Maybe I will check this out later." as apposed to a plain "It sucks!" response.

I am primarily a developer not a manager, etc and even I could point out their mistakes which is more due to their stupiditity than my credit. It's just common sense.

Some of the ideas were good, but the functionality really wasn't :(
I remember when it first came out, I searched for "The Killers - Read My Mind" and there were no search results for it :S Also, when searching for things, it would display the wrong image by the results (e.g. search for "Neowin" & see what's on the image next to the result :P).

It is a shame that people have such a negative reaction though because it is getting better (for example there are now search results for "The Killers - Read My Mind"), it just needs to fully funtion right (i.e. get the right images next to the results & also improve it's relevence of search results).

I'm annoyed because as much as Google's accuracy is very good & I still have to use it, I have been waiting for a better search engine to come out for ages!! I despise the Google brand, their awful 'simple' designs & their horrible software! It really is just a shame that they are still going immensly strong with 80% of the market share!

cJr. said,
Some of the ideas were good, but the functionality really wasn't :(
I remember when it first came out, I searched for "The Killers - Read My Mind" and there were no search results for it :S Also, when searching for things, it would display the wrong image by the results (e.g. search for "Neowin" & see what's on the image next to the result :P).

It is a shame that people have such a negative reaction though because it is getting better (for example there are now search results for "The Killers - Read My Mind"), it just needs to fully funtion right (i.e. get the right images next to the results & also improve it's relevence of search results).

I'm annoyed because as much as Google's accuracy is very good & I still have to use it, I have been waiting for a better search engine to come out for ages!! I despise the Google brand, their awful 'simple' designs & their horrible software! It really is just a shame that they are still going immensly strong with 80% of the market share! :(


Funny, all the reasons you seem to dislike Google is whu they are the best, no need to waste resources on a "pretty" page, just give me my results, nothing more. Not sure what software you are talking about, but all Google's software runs 100% better than what's available.

haha, I had forgotten all about it till now. I remember trying it when it came out and then kinda forgot about it lol.

Worst search engine I've ever used. The way it displays results is stupid, and the results themselves are pathetic. Why were people bragging about this thing?

I wonder what could in the future really challenge Google :

Because since the birth of Google and it's rising to top, no competition has scared the owners of Google..

Yahoo is somewhat almost dead, Microsoft well, want's yahoo because can't do any better..

So what could challenge Google in the near future?

Personally I think Live Search is almost as good as Google, better in some searches worse in others. Which makes me wonder why on earth people just use one search engine. If you really want to find something it's kind of stupid to just rely on one. They're all free, you don't have to be loyal to Google.

I hate the new Live Search page though; with the background photos and those annoying boxes that flash each time you load it. Give us an option to disable that junk. It's also pathetic that they have to resort to bribing people with prizes to use it.

TRC said,
Personally I think Live Search is almost as good as Google, better in some searches worse in others. Which makes me wonder why on earth people just use one search engine. If you really want to find something it's kind of stupid to just rely on one. They're all free, you don't have to be loyal to Google.

I hate the new Live Search page though; with the background photos and those annoying boxes that flash each time you load it. Give us an option to disable that junk. It's also pathetic that they have to resort to bribing people with prizes to use it.


Simple because Google gives me what I want 99% of the time in a easy to use format without too many adds or garbage I don't need, just the search results.

Tried other search engines, and even one that crawled them all, even that one gave mostly Google links so I figured why not just use Google and be done with it?

Better granularity over the results, especially for example, images.

While google lets you choose to see the quick weakly and ambiguously defined "large, small, big, extra large" image categories, you can't sort results by size/dimensions or search for say, images wider than 4000 pixels, etc.

So, searching for wallpaper or reference images for artwork, or art direction/design research, etc. etc. is just so very time consuming when all you want is THE highest resolution version of a given image.

Live.com search doesn't even give you THAT beginner's 101 option for images. Pathetic. So you try an image search there and it's filled with barely larger than thumbnail image returns. Who cares about those, ever?!

So all of these sites could do a hell of a lot better job of mining the data they already have from an end user perspective.

excalpius said,
Live.com search doesn't even give you THAT beginner's 101 option for images. Pathetic. So you try an image search there and it's filled with barely larger than thumbnail image returns. Who cares about those, ever?!

I just tried live search (I hardly use it)... there are options on the side to refine by size...

Russia and China among other large non-western nations use other search engines as well besides Google, so you can't expect them to have 100% market share, although I can't imagine why anyone would use anything other than Google.

Well, when IE installs with ****ty "Live Search" as a default, that will eat into marketshare for the noobs. And there are a LOT of those on the tubes.

simon360 said,
Cuil's market share due to this article: 0.02% :P


no no no, you need to write something like:
Cuil will soon get an "ambiguous" 0.02% market share due to this post.

you must use a quoted word when replying to this topic

so cuil has ability to turn you into a coke transformer? you turned coke into pepsi, thats some technology you have in your nostrils

ZombieFly said,
so cuil has ability to turn you into a coke transformer? you turned coke into pepsi, thats some technology you have in your nostrils :)

Hahahaha

ZombieFly said,
so cuil has ability to turn you into a coke transformer? you turned coke into pepsi, thats some technology you have in your nostrils :)

its an upgrade

/ -Razorfold said,
Lol what?

I did a cuil search of "neowin"...nothing strange came up...


it was like months ago. on page 4. now its gone.

ZombieFly said,
so cuil has ability to turn you into a coke transformer? you turned coke into pepsi, thats some technology you have in your nostrils :)


With a second pass, it becomes Dr. Pepper.

No it doesn't. For technical searches it's actually better than Google, as terms like "$oem$" show up in Cuil, but Google strips out the two "$"'s leaving you with a useless search of "oem".

It fails on even basic searches. I regularly look up lyrics and so I just picked the first thing that came to my mind: "travelling at the speed of light lyrics" (without the quotation marks)

Google: 2.2m result, first result being bang on
Cuil: no results

Google might not be great but it's easily the best search engine I've found so far.

Cuil was great if you wanted to find something completely irrelevant to your query, or if you were more interested in gay porn than some information about that essay you had to write for the following morning. But apart from that, yeah, you might want to stick to Google, as it appears most people have already done.

Hmm, just took a look. Looks nice, like google only more stylish. But one thing about Google i like is that you can click (pages from the UK) which you cant seem to do... might give it a go in future.