Cuil Needs To Fix Its Technology Before It Can Get Hot - InformationWeek

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Cuil Needs To Fix Its Technology Before It Can Get Hot

Search engine expert Stephen Arnold believes the surge of interest in Cuil shows there's a huge pent-up demand for an alternative to Google.

With the dust -- and the first wave of searches -- settling on the new Cuil search engine, most of the reviews were negative when results were compared with Google.

But search engine expert Stephen Arnold believes Cuil's debut has some impressive features -- and potential problems -- that will show up later.

What stands out in Arnold's analysis is that after spending a few million dollars, Cuil has been able to search an index the start-up claims is three times larger than that of Google, which has spent billions developing its technology. "It's a normal start-up," said Arnold. "It's a miracle it works at all."

Noting that Cuil's first days of public usage stacked up poorly against Google, Arnold, in an interview Thursday said: "They'll fix it. Search is an iterative process. But what the (surge of) interest in Cuil showed is that there's a huge pent-up demand for an alternative to Google."

Arnold, who has tracked search patents for years and written about them in several books and reports including his recent "Beyond Search" for the Gilbane Group, noted that Cuil co-founder Anna Patterson left Google in 2006 after authoring several patents related to search.

"Dr Patterson joined Google in 2004 and filed six patent applications," Arnold said. "Now, as an ex Googler or Xoogler, she has focused on some of the weak points in the Google approach to search -- namely, privacy and comprehensive indexing."

Google, which officially began in 1998 after some earlier work by the company's early hires, took time to get wheeling, said Arnold, who added that Cuil probably needs additional funding. Patterson told The New York Times that the search engine was overwhelmed by 50 million queries in its first day of operation Monday and that number was way more than the startup had expected.

"We're engineers, and we are reading the press for good feedback and critical feedback," she said. "If we didn't have improvements to make, we wouldn't have a job here."

So who will want to use Cuil? Assuming Cuil improves its search results, Arnold believes the next three or four months will be crucial as searchers experiment with the service.

Users worried about privacy issues could be attracted to Cuil, Arnold said, noting that many searchers believe Google doesn't do enough to protect their identity.

"Will Cuil get traction," Arnold asked rhetorically? "The answer is yes. My hypothesis is that the folks who flock to Cuil will be Google users, but the real impact of Cuil may well be taking orphaned or disaffected users from Ask.com, Live.com, and Yahoo.com search."

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