Google: Could This Be the Flap of Seagull Wings?

29 July 2008

MENLO PARK, California: When Edward Lorenz published his Chaos Theory (aka the 'Butterfly Theory') in 1963, "a meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull's wings could change the course of weather forever." 

If so it could be the source of nervous laughter within Google's corridors of power.

Why? On Monday a seagull's wings might have flapped in Menlo Park, California. 

From whence husband and wife team  Tom Costello and Anna Patterson, former senior key Googlistas, launched Cuil, on an unsuspecting world.

Pronounced 'cool', it is an old Irish word for knowledge. It is also a search engine.

According to Mr and Mrs: "The internet has grown exponentially in the last fifteen years but search engines have not kept up – until  now.

"Cuil searches more pages on the web than anyone else: three times as many as Google and ten times as many as Microsoft." 

A former Stanford researcher Costello claims that with 120 billion web pages, Cuil's search index is larger than any other. It harnesses a data-mining technique that groups web pages by content, thereby making the search engine more efficient.

Instead of showing results as short snippets of text and images with links, it displays longer entries and uses more pictures. It also provides tools to help users further refine their queries.

But judged by this writer's experience on Day One, it is also slower. Much slower. Or perhaps the site was overwhelmed by other inquisitive surfers? 

In Google's relatively short lifetime (two months short of ten years) there have been many contenders challenging the champ. All have failed.

This time it might be different.

Says Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land: "This is the most promising thing I've seen in a while. [But] whether they are going to threaten Microsoft, much less Google, that's another story."

Cuil, which currently employs just thirty people, mostly ex-Googlistas, has raised $33 million from venture investors.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff