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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