Cuil Me Once, Shame On You…

By  |  Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 12:40 am

Remember Cuil? Back in 2008, The search engine gained brief notoriety back in 2008 by claiming to be better than Google when it was in fact laughably, bizarrely bad. Then it mostly disappeared, except when bloggers need a synonym for “failed launch” or “unbridled hubris.”

Now Cuil is back with a new project I learned about in a GigaOM post by Matthew Ingram: Cpedia, an algorithmic encyclopedia with more than 384 million “automated articles.” Cuil founder and CEO Tom Costello explains:

Cpedia returns an automatically written article in response to a query, rather than a list of hits. It can be very compelling; it is especially good at surfacing facts that I didn’t know before. At other times it is weird — it does reflect the web after all.

[section explaining that Cpedia censors offensive matter snipped]

I find Cpedia best on topics that I thought I knew about. I find out things I should have known but didn’t. I’ve noticed productivity has slowed in the company since we have had it up for internal testing, as people ask each other about stranger and stranger trivia, or exclaim, “I didn’t know your middle name was Hector?”

Cpedia is very different from a traditional search engine, and not at all like Wikipedia, but that is its strength; it is something new and different. I hope you like it. I certainly do.

Different? Weird? I’ll say. So far, the best articles I’ve checked out consist of brief excerpts from other sources–often only vaguely related to the alleged topic–that have been assembled in seemingly random order into a jumble of paragraphs that are robbed of their context. The worst entries? Even the sentences in them are unintelligible.

Here are excerpts from a couple of typical entries:

The entry on Cuil itself is rife with gibberish (“Clickbooth Cuil but not avail due to flooding traffics…”)

Here’s a section from the entry on…me:

Cuil’s executive team boasts former Google and IBM search scientists, and multiple PhDs from Stanford. And maybe the company has an idiosyncratic sense of humor. Given that Cpedia launched on April 8th, I’m not discounting the possibility that it’s all an elaborate practical joke. It certainly tops most of the stuff here



5 Comments For This Post

  1. John Baxter Says:

    In a photo of the bottom halves of two people (the 49ers “article”), we read about X, second from the right, and Y, second from the left.

    Not exactly how a human writer would do that.

    I think I will give cpedia all the attention it deserves. In fact, I’ve already done that.

  2. Jake Says:

    It reads like some of the spam messages I get.

  3. Renchub Says:

    I love how the Harry McCracken references sound like “Chuck Norris” jokes.

  4. Joshua Weinberg Says:

    How did this company not learn from its first failed launch????

  5. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    All of the bad things ever said about Wikipedia apply 10,000 times over to Cpedia.

    The first article I read had this construction:

    “People are saying [this obvious thing] will happen, but I think there is absolutely no chance of that happening, for these 3 reasons: [reasons missing]”

    Wow, so helpful.

    It would have been better if they just identified about 3 relevant articles that had different viewpoints on your topic instead of mixing in pieces of various articles.

    It’s nice to see someone trying to do something different in search, though.

3 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Cpedia Proves We Still Need Humans « Steve Wildstrom on Tech Says:

    […] its entries by gathering relevant snippets from sites all over the Web. (For a full review, see this Technologizer post by Harry McCracken.) What it actually produces is mostly gibberish that barely qualifies as […]

  2. Goodbye Cuil? Says:

    […] dreadful search engine that claimed to be better than Google, and which later launched a bizarre automated Wikipedia competitor–is down. And maybe out for good.   Be the first to comment tweetmeme_style = […]

  3. And That’s What You Missed on Technologizer Says:

    […] I was sort of stunned by Cuill’s bizarre new Wikipedia rival, Cpedia. […]