Former Google employees are making headlines today as they launch a rival to their former employer. So I thought I'd give it a go to see how special it is.
The verdict? So far: unimpressed.
1. The layout of search results on cuil.com looks cluttered. It is not, in reality, "cluttered" but the way it's organized makes my eye jump around without knowing where to land. Three columns of information are presented, with differing sizes of text boxes. On the right is a box titled "Explore by Category." But it's just sitting there with the search results, almost blending in. If this is a permanent feature, give it a different width in the layout or make it pop out some other way. Don't just stick it on top of result # x. I don't care how fancy your algorithm is if I can't look at the page. User interface is King here.
2. If you search for "google" the top graphic (somewhat ironically) for Google itself is missing with a little red x indicating the problem. It's enough to make one almost--almost!--wonder if this is really a mistake. I don't want to look at little red Xs. If the graphics don't work, you need to figure out a way to leave them out entirely. That could get really annoying really quickly.
3. Since I wasn't really looking for any information, cuil couldn't really demonstrate its algorithmic prowess to me. I admit that. What's a gal going to look for just to try out a new search engine? Herself of course. "true confessions mormon mother" did not find my website. Neither did "geekuniverse" (which found nothing, despite .com also being populated with information.) Neither did "jhm2.blogspot.com" which is my original blogger address. Cuil.com is claiming bragging rights about indexing MORE pages than Google, although the matter is up for debate. As far as that goes, they committed the greatest sin possible: they didn't find mine. ;) How hard is it to find public blogger sites? You'd think that would be dead easy for a search engine. Like falling off a log.
4. Last night I was thinking about making a "Better than (you know what) cake." ("You know what" being something I don't want adsense to crawl through and target ads for. So we'll have to leave the word out.) So I decided to search for that. I searched without quotation marks. Not a single website appeared. You mean that there is not a single website out there with a recipe for "Better than (you know what) cake" in your entire index of 121 billion websites? That's just not intuitive.
5. When I clicked in the search box to search for something else, it didn't highlight all the text so I could just start typing. Instead I had to manually go in to delete it all before I started a new search. I know I'm grasping at straws here, but it left me annoyed. Another little UI detail.
6. The individual results offer TOO MUCH information. I need the page title, the URL and a couple lines to see where the word shows up, in context, on the page. But only a couple lines so that I can scan through several sites very quickly to find the most reputable-looking source. If you try to offer too much, it just means more scrolling to find the other results.
Okay, in the positive department:
1. I love websites with a black background. (Although the smaller blue text is a bit of a strain on the eyes.)
2. The entire idea of launching a rival to the internet behemoth is outright audacious. They deserve a standing ovation for going for it.
I'm all about great technology, so I'm happy to keep an open mind regarding a rival to my favoritest internet company. But you're going to have to do better than that if you want to impress me. I got a whole lot of "No results found" pages and bad user interface on the pages it did find. Hire some UI guys, clean things up and then hope that CNN covers you again, because you usually only get one chance to make the headlines and win people over. Your 15 minutes are almost over.
Another invisible internet site