Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 28, 2008 3:26 PM

Marketing Cuil As A "Google Killer" Is Silly

Nothing like some traditional mass media headlines to put a bee in my bonnet.

Here are just a few:

- Will Cuil Kill Google? - Motley Fool.
- Is Cuil the next Google? - Management Today.
- New competitor for Google - 3 News NZ.
- Ex-Google workers launch Internet search rival Cuil - AFP.

The first part of the story is that some former Google employees have launched a new Search Engine called, Cuil. I did what every person does for their first search to see what it's like: I searched for "Mitch Joel". To be honest, I did not understand how the search results were structured and the "Explore By Category" section was (in this order):

1. Burger King Characters.
2. Alexisonfire Members.
3. Canadian Punk Rock Singers.
4. Burger King People.
5. Video Bloggers.
6. Internet Personalities.
7. American Bloggers.
8. Towns In North Carolina.
9. 2000s Music Groups.
10. American Rock Music Groups.

I'm hopeful that the staff at Cuil is working on this, because as far as I'm concerned, I would not come back to a search engine that returned ten related category fields - all of them being wrong. A great search engine provides two core competencies: relevancy and trust. I did not see any higher levels of relevance in these search engine results that I am not already getting from Google, Yahoo or Microsoft and based on the categories referred back, it will be difficult to earn my trust with these types of results.

But that's not what concerns me. Lately, I've seen many start-ups come on to the scene (both Web-based and otherwise) and there seems to be this "we're going after the big boys" PR spin that sickens me a little. I'm also a huge fan of mixed martial arts, and there was recently a new event pulled together by the people behind Affliction Clothing. I didn't watch the show, and I know nothing about them, but a lot of the media out in the public was about how "Affliction is going to take down the UFC." I'm not choosing sides here, but how does a clothing company that decided to do one show in California think it's going to compete against an organization that has been around for close to twenty years? I like the gumption of the thought, but let's be honest with ourselves here.

Cuil could well be a fair competitor to Google as a search engine in the coming years, but it's not going to be the next Google. It's not going to kill Google and, it's not even really competition for Google at this point.

Why?

Google (and the UFC) are established companies, with many employees, lots of revenue, lots of brand and market awareness, etc... In order for any new company to beat the market leader, you have to simply do one thing: be much, much better than them. Simply replicating what's already there, or providing a similar service won't cut it. So, unless Cuil does something new and innovative in the search engine business, it has as much chance of taking down Google as this Blog does... and the media should know better.

Don't believe me? Threadless didn't gain market share by saying that they were going to crush American Apparel. They did it by changing the way we buy t-shirts. Just like Google changed the way we search for content online.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Kirk Skodis
    Mitch Joel

    I woke up to an email today from an associate asking if some lame clip-art pie icon was an old Real Pie Media logo (of course it was not).

    He referenced a Cuil search for "real pie" and other results for blog posts, etc had incorrectly-associated images too. Like yours, the categories were way off as well.

    I agree with your point about the big-guy-killer strategy, but think we should put the blame on the media, who loves a Davey and Goliath story - and less on the PR agency who simply knows how to work that angle with the media.

    Reply
  • Posted by Russ
    Mitch Joel

    Is it just me or doesn't this sound like an old record...does anyone remember Citizendium?(http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Main_Page)

    It is still lingering around, but back in '06 there were very predominate promises of it beating out Wikipedia...so much for that.

    I had an opportunity to play with Cuil today and it doesn't even compare to google. With mismatched photos and "High Load" errors taking place, it is impossible for them to live up to their brand promise.

    But don't take my word for it, see what the users of twitter have to say:
    http://search.twitter.com/search?q=Cuil

    Now I don't intend on coming off overly harsh. I do understand the approach they took. Chances are most people wouldn't have even visited the site if it wasn't for all of this 'Google Killer' hype. However, hype is a sort-lived phenominon. Without having a service that both brings value to the user and delivers on its brand promises, there is no reason for a repeat visit.

    Reply
  • Posted by Michael Seaton
    Mitch Joel

    You are exactly right.

    The underdog often has a chance when they are the understated underdog. Google was an underdog and didn't make claims, they performed and the market responded.

    Reply
  • Posted by Terrence Paquet
    Mitch Joel

    The first thing I did was search for my name too and lo and behold, I wasn't even on their map. True, as a struggling humor writer I'm not on most maps (yet) but at least when I Google my name I own the first page. Fact is, most people on Twitter and Plurk are talking about it in a bad way.

    Cuil? Not cool.

    Terrence Paquet
    http://snipurl.com/2gtjo

    Reply
  • Posted by Peter Kim
    Mitch Joel

    You think BK is bad? The [un]cuil search results for me deliver content that's mine, with a bunch of pictures of people that aren't me. On Cuil, I'm like the freaking man of 1,000 masks.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jim Walczak
    Mitch Joel

    Until Fire Fox (with a much better product IMHO) can unseat IE - I doubt Cuil has a shot @ Google.

    Reply
  • Posted by BestHatEver
    Mitch Joel

    Feels like snap.com and all the others who have tried to unseat Google. Let the giant wander for a while before throwing marbles in his path.

    Reply
  • Posted by alex
    Mitch Joel

    I actually kind of like thier concept, but it definitely needs alot of work. Try searching for "cuil" and they don't even show up on thier own search engine. >.<

    Reply
  • Posted by Daniel
    Mitch Joel

    Cuil blew it when threw petrol on the flames by setting stratospheric high expectations. Best solution? Fess u pto mistakes. Welcome feedback. Act humble. Bring down expectations. Problem is this takes time Cuil doesn't have

    Reply
  • Posted by Gabbriel
    Mitch Joel

    Have fun (as seen on some other blogs) by doing a search for "bacon" teh top result image of Keving is linking to the Ilovebacon assciation :-)

    So much for relevancy...

    Reply
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