Tag Archives | Google

Ten Reasons It’s So Damn Hard to Out-Google Google

Sifting through the blogosphere buzz on search engine Cuil today, just about everyone broaches the question of whether it might be a better search engine than Google–maybe even a more successful one someday. Judging from my experience with it so far, the real question is whether it’ll get marginally adequate, not whether it’ll topple the most dominant Web site the planet has ever known. But the chatter got me thinking: Why is it so $@#@$% difficult to beat Google at its own game?

It’s not like nobody’s giving it all they’ve got. Cuil is merely the most recent startup to be positioned as a possible Googleslayer: Others have included Powerset (recently snapped up by Microsoft), Wisenut (which is no longer with us), and Wikia. And every time Yahoo or Microsoft or Ask launches some feature which will supposedly prove an irresistable lure to Google fans, Google’s share of all searches only trends upward.

In short, nobody’s really even managed to give Google a flesh wound. As with Freddy Krueger, tryng to kill it seems to do more harm than good. But why?

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Is Cuil a Googleslayer? Nope, Not Yet–Not Hardly

A search engine called Cuil launched tonight. It touts itself as the world’s largest search engine, with more than 121 billion pages indexed–three times as many as Google, it says. Its “About Cuil” page sniffs at “superficial popularity metrics”–for which read Google’s PageRank–and says that it has a better approach to figuring out a page’s content and relevance. The site’s management includes multiple veterans of Google, plus Louis Monier, who was instrumental at AltaVista, the first important search engine. In short, both its claims and its staff set the bar high. And its claims, in particular, beg you to compare it with Google.

After spending a bit of time playing with Cuil, though, I’m more puzzled than impressed by the results. It would appear that the site is suffering some technical glitches tonight: In some cases, it’s told me it found zero results for a search, then has returned lots of them when I tried again. In fact, that’s happened often enough that I’d be cautious about judging any results that Cuil provides tonight:

I’ve done a bunch of other searches in hopes of finding an instance in which Cuil clearly beats Google. No luck so far. When I search for George Washington, the first result relates to George Washington University, not the Father of the Nation. The second result is Wikipedia’s entry on the great man, but the text excerpt is a snippet from the bibliography at the end of the article, so that’s not clear. The third result is a page about the George Washington Carver museum in Austin, Texas. I can’t imagine anyone arguing that that outdoes Google’s results. In fact, placing a result relating to George Washington Carver so high is evidence that Cuil’s understanding of my search was shaky; it’s unlikely that anyone looking for information on George Washinton Carver would fail to include the “Carver” in the search.

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Knol’s Well: Google’s Encyclopedia Looks Cool

Back in December, Google said it was working on a platform for knowledge sharing called Knol–and I wrote what seems in retrospect an unusually cranky post about it. I admitted that it could be neat, but I said I was tired of Google hopping on bandwagons, and that Knol sounded like a me-too project. I was also irked by the fact that Google said at the time that it wasn’t sure whether it would ever actually launch Knol. In short, I was just plain pissy.

Flash forward to today: Knol has indeed been launched at knol.google.com. And maybe I just happen to be in a better mood today, but I’ve gone from grudgingly admitting it might be OK to being…well, enthusiastic about it. Or at least guardedly optimistic.

What’s Knol, in one sentence? It’s Wikipedia–except that the content is written by identifiable individuals, in theory experts in their field, who are allowed to have a point of view, and who can get a cut of Google advertising displayed on the entries they write. Over at Wired News, Steven Levy has a very nice piece on the idea, with opinions from Knol advocates (including Google’s Udi Manber, its inventor) and Knol naysayers (such as Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia).

Knol is not exactly a radically new idea. It sounds a little like an open-admissions variant of About.com, and even more like Seth Godin’s Squidoo. But mostly, It’s impossible to talk about Knol without comparing it to Wikipedia.

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