What a new search engine should be about

By July 29, 2008 26 Comments

There has been an awful lot of chatter about Cuil in the blogosphere over the last couple of days. The biggest memes have been (not very positive) reviews, the way the launch was bungled because the site is still buggy, and the way the launch was fantastic from a PR point of view.

For me the interesting question is Cuil’s strategy.

For sure search is an attractive market and given Google’s market share, margins and search quality issues it is only right that there should be plenty of challengers. And there are hundreds – AltSearchEngines is an entire site dedicated to covering the sector.

But if I was going after Google I would not choose to major on the themes Cuil picked out

  • size of index,
  • less emphasis on popularity to determine relevance, and
  • privacy

My instinct is that most searchers are:

  • not looking for needles in haystacks and for them Google’s index is more than big enough,
  • don’t worry too much about the search algorithm (so long as it sounds sensible), and
  • don’t feel too threatened by Google’s privacy position

That said, Cuil are backed by some smart money, so there are obviously multiple valid opinions in this space.

If I was going to challenge Google I would focus on areas like using social search to cut out spam, allowing natural language queries, foreign language search, mobile and maybe video. These are the areas where I think it is possible to be both distinctively different than Google and much better than them (although their recent social search experiments are a warning how quickly things could change).