back to article Ex-Googlers reinvent web search

In an attempt to upstage their former employer, a trio of ex-Googlers have launched a search engine of their own. They insist on calling it "Cuil" - pronounced "cool," apparently - and they say it "goes beyond today’s search techniques." This includes flashing random pornography when you search for information about a Grenoble …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    I used to be on the same bit of campus as the computer science school of UoN.

    I don't remember seeing any of that going on.

  2. V

    Not much good for sites with content dragged in using js/ajax calls.

    "Content based results" sounds fine in practice - but sometimes "most popular" really is what you want. This is particularly the case where the content is applied by javascript or an ajax call. Being able to handle THOSE kind of sites would be truly radical. (Overuse/misuse of ajax is to be avoided, but sometimes it's necessary...)

    E.g. - arguably, searching on something like "diddlefinger" should bring up the google maps mashups by that name [disclaimer: it is mine] as one of the top links - not a range of sites that refer to it.

  3. laurence brothers


    Ha, and that was with "safe search" turned on, too.

  4. E


    I searched on "Posix thread mutex" on cuil. It came back with links that seem well related to the search, but the pictures are a bit out there.

    link title: "Boost.Threads - Mutex Concept", picture of book "Programming with POSIX Threads" by Butenhof.

    link title: "Multithreading Programming Topics: Using POSIX Thread ...", picture of book "Programming with POSIX Threads" by Butenhof.

    link title: "Qt Toolkit - Thread Support in Qt", picture of some cross stitch or petty point.

    link title: "Thread Support in Qt", picture of a music CD "Star of Crash" (hard to read the title.

    link title: "POSIX Threads Programming", picture of some men working on one of the cables atop a large suspension bridge.

    I followed some of the links and they were indeed all related to POSIX threads, which is not too shabby. Just the pics were a bit odd.

    Now, if I had searched on "POSIX rope mutex", or perhaps "insert object into STL container" I might have got some different pictures.

    Interesting also that wikipedia did not constitute most of the first page of links.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Due to excessive load, our servers didn't return results

    Please try your search again.

  6. Edward Clarke

    It has problems with "Dr."

    If you type in Jonathan Grattage it returns the naughty pictures. If you type in

    Dr. Jonathan Grattage then it fails - says the load is too high.

  7. E


    Wow, V, those are some excellent maps of Japan!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Too Cuil to be on Cuil?

    Just tried searching for information on Cuil on Cuil.

    Found Sligo and Scotland, but not Cuil the search engine!

    If the search engine ignores self-promotion, it's got to be good!

    [Paris, because searching for Paris on Cuil definitely gives more interesting results than searching for Paris on Google...]

  9. tony trolle


    I still miss hotbot before it got messed up c.1999

  10. Matti Ressler

    Do it right....

    We make extensive use of Ajax without any problem whatsoever with search engines, eg.

    This comes down very simply to superior site design.

    Matti Ressler


  11. Chris Harlen

    It does not stack up

    I did a test search using House of Health and found that there were multiple duplications of a small number of sites and their contents, though there was a statement saying that "92,746 results for House of Health" only 23 pages with 11 results showed on each, most of the 264 were duplicates.

    Google shows more House of Health sites.

    Test for yourself.

  12. Trix
    Paris Hilton

    Holy sh*t

    I wrote them a grumpy email yesterday for using a copyrighted image that has nothing to do with me or or the content of my site to link to it. So it could have been worse, eh?

    Also, the searching itself is complete pants. As mentioned above, some huge proportion of the search results are simply links to online directories (such as dmoz) - doing a search on "canberra organic garden" has my site on the first page... but no return on the Canberra Organic Gardening Society, half a dozen links to directory sites, and the balance having nothing to do with Australia, much less Canberra (or organic gardening). Searching on "organic garden canberra" doesn't return my site, nor COGS or anything else to do with organic gardening in Canberra. "organic garden_ing_ canberra" returns a whole raft of different results, with COGS finally showing up.

    Similar results occur with all of the searches I've carried out, with occasional links to those Wikipedia clone sites when it comes to the more factual material.

    Can I also point out that using a word to name your website that cannot be correctly pronounced by anyone other than Gaelic readers is complete w@nk. There are plenty of other languages that have words that can be pronounced by anyone who reads a Latin-based script (I vote for "kono", which is Maori for "basket" (of knowledge).

    /Paris, because she can usually find what she's looking for, unlike Cuil.

  13. Tom Silver badge

    Are they sure it's not cull ?

    Maybe they just want to sell it to Microsoft for a big bag of money.

  14. V

    @Matti Ressler

    ...actually your use of ajax does not seem terribly extensive at all, and it certainly isn't the kind of site I had in mind. (It is a nice site, just not of the type i was referring to...)

    No one doubts that you can often, with a bit of thought, "do things in a way that is search engine friendly" - but if that is the only reason that you are doing it- rather than because the application itself demands it, then you are compromising your site simply to get around an inadequacy in a search engine...

    Pragmatically, that may be worth doing, but it is still more or less a "nasty hack". (That said, being forced to think "do I really need to do this on an ajax call or by writing to the DOM directly" is a jolly good discipline - but sometimes the answer is "yes". )

    The point I was making is that going to a "content" model, as Cuil seems to, is something of a step backwards, because it exacerbates the problem with indexing content applied after the page has loaded - which it seems to be unable to parse. For such sites, the "popularity" model actually works better as web-surfers can analyze the content better than Cuil is apparently able to.

  15. Charles Manning

    Rubbish info

    I think the UI has potential, but the results are rubbish. About half the searches I tried (all technical - honest!) returned name squats and really stupid pictures with no bearing on the subject matter.

    Pictures only inform if they are relevant. If not, then leave them out.

    Cuil claims to search more pages than Google. Perhaps, but quality is far more important than quantity.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The BBC...

    ...picked up on Cuil too, and wrote this on their site:

    "Cuil claims that its technology moves away from the methods that have driven Google's success"

    ...which would explain why Cuil is so awful.

  17. Lyall

    LOL@Matti Ressler

    "We make extensive use of Ajax without any problem whatsoever with search engines, eg.

    This comes down very simply to superior site design."

    Installing OSCommerce and throwing a template on it doesn't make you or your websites superior to anything.

  18. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Wild Joker Cards ....... for Trumping Kings and Queens.

    "Maybe they just want to sell it to Microsoft for a big bag of money."

    If there's astute Celtic blood coursing through their veins, then licensing it to Microsoft for bags of big money would have them sitting pretty and feeling on top of the world.

    And with careful tweaking/tuning of the search algorithm, in order to deliver outstanding lead content, can easily ensure that Novel Information Leads Future Direction ..... which would be Real Cool Cuil ...... although paradoxically, it would be AIRed Hot XXXX dDevelopment ReSearch and Product Placement.

    Are they Planning a Simply Cuil Cloud Complex to lay waste to mouldy G.C.H.E.E.S.E. and the Fuddy Duddy. As we know, cheese is one of those new fangled, entangled string fuels for Upper Crust Echelons .......

    Or is that something which is always in Locked and Secure Beta AIR&dD and therefore Intellectual Property which need not necessarily be discussed and/or revealed until such times as they have IT sussed or choose to XXXXPose.

    Seems like a Good Plan ..... and for anyone capable of sitting on top of the world and feeling pretty ..... a Godsend ....... although Really, it is just IT and AI conspiring 42 EduTain you, Virtually....... with AIRange of Network InterNetworking RobotIQs to Capture the Living Soul and Process ITs Imagination into Beta CyberIntelAIgent Leads Transparently Shared Steganographically with Much SMARTer Leaderships.

    Way to Go, Cuil. amfM HyperRadioProActivity Seconds that NEUKlearer Quantum Leap Path.

    And yes, you can think that that is Absoluut GBIrish but any Full Monty Goon would Realise that it is also Raw PerlyGatesPython for Empirical Imperial Use.

    cc HMGCC re GCHQ Roles in Great Games 42 Play with Quantum Communications BetaTesting Intelligences.

    IT certainly beats pratting about like the headless chicken or psychotic hubristic idiot in Palaces like Westminster....... :-)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Tried yesterday when the BBC announced the site yesterday, got no results at all for several searches, just a page loading progress bar. Google killer? I think not.

  20. Itsacon
    Thumb Down

    I found out how they make money...

    Just searched for the title of my own website, and 90% of the results were ad-sites with text from my website in the description. The description on Cuil, that is. Going to the site in question showed nothing of the sort on the page, just ads

    The top result was a link to an old URL of my site, which has been off-line for over a year...

    Thumbs down, cause they need to do some work before I step over from Scroogle...

  21. A. Lewis
    Thumb Down

    Oh deary me.

    Just when you thought web company names couldn't get any worse. Cuil? Seriously? It sounds like a disease.

  22. BillPhollins
    Paris Hilton

    It's not hot

    I tried searching for this in google, it returned lots of articles about it, but not the actual URL. How suspicious...

    Also I tried cuil itself yesterday, typed in tcp ip and it found a whopping 0 results. I think I'll stick to google...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While I'm all for a credible Google rival...

    ...this ain't it. At least not yet. As others have said, this whole contextual thing is all well and good, but it doesn't seem to deliver the actual site you're looking for, just all the sites that reference it.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Bloody hell this site should have NSFW warning!

    Don't miss type for and defiantly don't search for "sql case". Im going for a lie down.

    Paris because - well just take a guess.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    More Hot Action

    Searched for my FlickR name. Page 2 comes up and has a result for a new Narnia movie with some Hot Porn pic, that doesn't even seem to be on the page. Thats with safe search on!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    "I still miss hotbot before it got messed up c.1999"

    Amen to that one, brother.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    I don't care what they say...

    'Cull' is pronounced 'cull' as in 'hull', if you want to call it 'cool' spell it 'cool', or 'cuul' or 'cewl'.

    For goodness sake.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The funniest thing...

    ... is that I was in the same form group as Jonathan at college.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Idiot pictures

    "I wrote them a grumpy email yesterday for using a copyrighted image that has nothing to do with me or or the content of my site to link to it. So it could have been worse, eh?"

    So did I - using a different charities logo for the charity website I run is not a good start (charities that work in the same kind of area, but different approaches and one secular, one not)

    Not impressed so far...

  30. Jon Grattage

    @Anonymous Coward

    I've known a lot of Anonymous Coward's, you'll have to be more specific... :)

  31. Chris Richards

    poor john holmes...

    this immigration attorney in orlando will not be happy.

    I see cuil having some legal issues!

    And I really don't like the image thing - I hope this is a work in progress!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They have one of my sites with Iraqi dirt farmers :)

    Brilliant, I think it is a ploy, gosh I hope it is because if not I will be looking for vengeance.

    Cuil it has an i not a double l :) But cool it is not.

    I cannot even work out the correlation of picture to url logic, it is just one great cock up.

    They could be road side bombers, have to check out some other urls (see that is the ploy).

  33. Adrian Jackson
    Paris Hilton

    The images seem to be completely messed up

    But in a strangely logical way. Mixing up charity logos, for example. I searched for my band, and although it found our website (consisting of a single logo and a list of MP3s) it ignored our logo and presented the album cover from "A Looney Tunes Sing-A-Long Christmas". Which doesn't quite fit with our post-punk stylings, but is gratifying nonetheless.

    Strangest thing is that it seems to be consistent - using a different wrong image each time would suggest a 'simple' threading issue. Using the *same* wrong image each time is just confusing (and prone to law suits).

    Paris, because this comment has nothing to do with her, and if it's good enough for cuil...

  34. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "illustrate the vastness and the variety of the Web"

    Well let's see, the web is comprised of 35% junk (pics of pets or kids), 30% porn, 20% news, fake news and tech news, and the rest is either purely commercial or useless.

    So if your search site wants me to discover the 70% I'm not interested in, don't bother.

  35. Sparkypatrick

    Guysh, thish shearch engine ish not ready!

    Went to check it out - took about a minute to open, found nothing that Google didn't, presented the results in a cluttered mess and for "DHCP server Windows 2003" found no results. Best not to announce your "Google-beater" until you actually have it working. Have a Grolsch and get back to the drawing board.

  36. Adrian Jackson

    Also: Pronounced 'cool'?

    I prefer to pronounce it very similarly, as 'cul' - the French for 'arse'.

  37. W

    Where's Osama? Glasgow!

    A search for "Glasgow" returned a link for 'Glasgow Centre for the Child and Society' with an accompanying image of Osama bin Laden!

    A search for "delicious" (or even "") failed to return the social bookmarking site on the first page of results.

    It's not all bad though. "Reg" returns a top centre link to

    But on balance: rubbish. I'll not be back in a hurry.

    I find Scour (formerly aftervote, formerly younanimous) to be a much more useful alt search at the mo.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Still needs some work

    The naughty pic has now disappeared. Testing cuil a bit revealed it is still far from cool.

    "i wanna rule the world" 10cc lyric returns 0 results on cuil, whilst removing the quotation marks returns 4 605 641 results as opposed to Google's 856. I did not check for duplications, though (I have to get some work done as well!).

    Quotation marks, however, definitely confuses cuil no end, almost invariably returning the following error page:

    We didn’t find any results for “"whatever search criteria you entered"”

    Some reasons might be...

    * a typo. Please check your spelling.

    * your search includes a term that is very rare. Try to find a more common substitute.

    * too many search terms. Please try fewer terms.

    Finally, try to think of different words to describe your search.

  39. Anthony Zacharzewski

    More Cuil failage

    I searched for my site, The Democratic Society, with quotes. First result: Homepage of the North Korean government.

    Are they trying to tell me something?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    @Anonymous Coward

    "....'Cull' is pronounced 'cull' as in 'hull', if you want to call it 'cool' spell it 'cool', or 'cuul' or 'cewl'...."

    that's all very interesting, but since the site is called 'cuil', not very relevant.


    @gaelic scholars everywhere

    'cuil' is irish for fly [as in buzzing insect] or 'bad mood' and is pronounced somewhere between 'quill' and 'kill' depending what part of the gaeltacht you're from. if they want it to be pronounced 'cool' they'd have to stick a 'fada' on the 'u' and spell it 'cúil'. that means a 'nook' or 'corner'.

    i can see plenty of opportunity for witty quippage with any of those three options:

    * 'fly' - because you're likely to land in the shit, using it

    * 'bad mood' - because that's what you'll be in, when you search for yourself and find some gay porn under your name [unless you're a gay porn-star!]

    * 'nook/corner' - because [judging on current performance] that's likely to be representative of the amount of google's market share this thing manages to steal

  41. Anonymous Coward

    A search is only as good as the results it returns

    Totally bizarre, I think amanfrommars has been helping code their search algorithms...

    Searching for my company name does find my homepage amongst lots of unrelated sites, but like others above they have used someone else's logo.

    I note Cuil seem to be hosting the images themselves, so they maybe don't have enough storage / bandwidth and want to just re-use the same few files so they get cached by people's browsers or proxy servers to save on resending.

    Results which link to my blog have pictures of some TV show (could be Lost as the bot probably was, but it's a very small thumbnail so hard to tell). Another link to my blog has a pic of a car showroom (nothing to do with me in any way whatsoever).

    Even more weird, a search for "Microsoft training Leeds" has as the second result a page on which does not exist, with link text from an Irish e-learning provider's press releases (nowhere near Yorskshire). Even more strangely, the title text carrying the link reads "management training lesbian training microsoft training".

    This is just ridiculous, and has nothing to do with the linked site at all. Putting it back into cuil as a search term does not return that page at all.

    The other results seem to have a preference for pictures of David Brent, for some unknown reason.

    Does this non-existent page count as one of the 121 billion pages indexed?

    I like the layout of the search results - it looks a bit bloggish, in a good way. Pictures will help the look but only they have at least a vague relevance. Not sure if they help you choose the right link to follow, though.

    As for the name, I have no problem if the Gaelic for knowledge happens to sound like "kewl" - it's no more arbitrary than "Google", or misspelling words like digg and flickr.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Bunch of arse

    they should rename it Culo*

    *students of Italian slang will get where I'm coming from. The rest of you, look it up, possibly in a different search engine.

  43. Chris
    Thumb Down

    It's sureal!

    The level of 'reliabiity' is laughable. The first test terms I tried worked perfectly, right site, No1 ranking, even the right image (the site banner) - after that though it went seriously down hill, failed to find any correct sites from test terms known to work on the big G within the first 2-3 pages. And tons of completely inappropriate, not to mention more than a few NSFW accompanying images.

    In a way it reminds me a little of the early Google - but with that you did often find what you were after, the odd 'off the wall' result was a kind of unlooked for bonus.

    This thing, except for the very first search I tried, isn't off the wall - it's missed the building, the town, the country and isn't even on the right planet!

    Cool it definitely ain't. However you spell it.

  44. Anonymous Coward


    Surely you should know better than to misplace an apostrophe, Jon...

    They seem to have removed the connection between the offending images and your name now! I guess they weren't fond of the negative publicity- although I reckon you've given them a boost in traffic.

  45. Matthew Ellen
    Thumb Down

    failed my ego search

    Searching for my name with Google returns my website as the very first result, even when I don't use quotes.

    Searching with cuil puts my website in the middle of page 16. That's with quotes.

  46. Allan Rutland


    Funniest thing is to search for wikipedia on Cuil...according to it Wiki doesn't even exist :P or is that just wishful thinking.

  47. Jon Grattage

    @Christopher P. Martin

    I know, I know - why isn't there an edit button on this thing? I blame this French keyboard - I clearly intended to type a "4" there.

    Although there is a boost, I think most people will discover that cuil is a bit rubbish.

    I'm waiting for this to be added to the wikipedia page now.

  48. duncan campbell

    Incompetent IP pirates


    "We didn’t find any results for “fubarhak”"


  49. Chris Matchett
    Thumb Down


    it's shite at searching for pr0n

  50. Uwe Dippel

    AC Warning

    I was trying my best to get NSFW stuff on my desktop. According to some AC, a search for "sql case" would do. It gives a tiny thumb, among others, and clicking on it, continuously ends here:

    Server Error in '/' Application.

    The remote server returned an error: (500) Internal Server Error.

    Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

    Exception Details: System.Net.WebException: The remote server returned an error: (500) Internal Server Error.

    Source Error:

    Line 48: Dim aRequestedHTML() as Byte

    Line 49:

    Line 50: aRequestedHTML = objWebClient.DownloadData(siteURL)

    Line 51:

    Line 52: 'STEP 3: Convert the Byte array into a String

    Source File: c:\websites\cutebaskets293\\process.aspx Line: 50

    Stack Trace:

    [WebException: The remote server returned an error: (500) Internal Server Error.]

    System.Net.HttpWebRequest.CheckFinalStatus() +680

    System.Net.HttpWebRequest.EndGetResponse(IAsyncResult asyncResult) +139

    System.Net.HttpWebRequest.GetResponse() +251

    System.Net.WebClient.DownloadData(String address) +151

    ASP.process_aspx.Page_Load(Object sender, EventArgs e) in c:\websites\cutebaskets293\\process.aspx:50

    System.Web.UI.Control.OnLoad(EventArgs e) +67

    System.Web.UI.Control.LoadRecursive() +35

    System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain() +750

    Version Information: Microsoft .NET Framework Version:1.1.4322.2407; ASP.NET Version:1.1.4322.2407

    That's Microsoft-dot-Net for you. No wonder, AND a confirmation for my worst suspicion: Of course, they never want anything with it! They make it somewhat workable, remove the pr0n, and sell it to Steve B. for a few hundred millions. Bastards!


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