Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Top 5 Google Killers -- That Didn't

Cuil's home page looks like the Bizarro version of Google.
Cuil's home page looks like the Bizarro version of Google.
Screenshot by

In the summer of 2008, a new search engine emerged onto the scene and began to make headlines. Headed by Web veterans -- including former Google employees -- this new search engine seemed poised to take on Google in a head-to-head competition. The engine's name was Cuil -- pronounced "cool."

The launch of Cuil wasn't exactly an example of smooth sailing. Rafe Needleman of CNET said that it launched in a "blaze of glory" followed by a collapse in a "ball of flames" [source: CNET]. The problem was that, despite claims that Cuil would search far more sites than Google or Microsoft, results came back incomplete or just plain wrong.

Cuil took a different approach to searching and ranking Web sites. Google's strategy is to search sites for keywords and then rank the sites based upon popularity. The more popular a Web site is, the higher it will rank on a Google results page. The philosophy behind this approach is pretty simple: If a lot of people link to a page, it must be pretty good.

Cuil attempted to rank pages not based upon popularity but by relevance. The search engine crawled through Web pages looking for keywords and searching for context. It looked not just for the phrase or word you searched for but also the rest of the content on the page. Theoretically, you should have received results that are most relevant to your query.

The problem was that Cuil didn't quite live up to user expectations when it launched. In fact, the site closed for business on Sept. 17, 2010 [source: Duan].