Cuil [pronounced cool] is a new search engine start up company out of Menlo Park, CA., that is taking on Google. The new search engine company claims to have indexed some 120 billion pages,with the added claim they know of over one trillian pages. How about Google? How many pages do they have indexed?

Google remains quiet about how their system works and shares little with the public when it comes to how exactly Google functions. One can only guess that they most likely are equal to or surpass Cuil on indexing. It is interesting to note that this new company also feels that once consumers try Cuil, they will make the switch.

So I went to the Cuil site and did several searches. It is fast and the results appeared to be accurate. I noted that when the results appeared they also provided a brief description of what the articles was about. Nothing more, or nothing less than what Google currently provides. Overall Cuil worked very well. I commend them for a job well done.

Much of the secret sauce of Cuil is in the way they index the web and handle actual queries by users. Both are costly to scale, and Cuil claims to have found a way to massively reduct those costs. That allows them to run the search engine a lot cheaper, even at Google-scale should it ever reach that point. By some estimates, Google spends a billion dollars a year to run the back end infrastructure of it’s search business.

Cuil also claims to have better search results than Google and others based on how they index websites. They do not simply catalog keywords on a site and then rank the site based on its importance. They also work to understand how words are related (France – cheese – wine, for example), to return more relevant results to users. This is a semantic approach to search, but very different from Powerset’s natural language approach. Powerset uses artificial intelligence to try to understand what sentences on a website actually mean. Cuil, by comparison, simply tries to properly categorize and file a web page, even if the category name doesn’t appear on the site
That means users search the same way they always have, but Cuil will try to return better results via refinements in a “explore by category” module to the right of results. A search for dogs, for example, will return category results for “water dogs,” “crossbreed,” “cocker spaniel,” etc. Some of these related terms do not include the term “dog.”

The one thing I did enjoy about using Cuil was that the searching interface is shown in three columns. The results also include an image of the site as well. Cuil can also recommend other search terms that may match what you are looking for.

The big question will be if Cuil can gartner market share away from Google, where Yahoo and MSN have failed miserably. Only time will tell how well Cuil will do. They have a up hill battle going against Google.

Give Cuil a ty and let us know what you think.

Comments welcome.