Monday, July 28, 2008

Cuil vs. Me.dium vs. Google

I love being able to pit startups against the 800 lb gorilla - people always love an underdog and you never know when the little guys might just hit the right pressure point and topple the King.

There have been a few notable new efforts lately in the evolving search wars.

Today Cuil launched its new search engine, following closely on the heals of Me.dium, who announced their search alpha two weeks ago, as well as a few month after Powerset and Searchme.

Let's look at the two recent competitors and do a quick compare of Cuil vs Me.dium. I think these two companies approach the problem of finding information in very different ways, not only as compared to each other, but also compared to existing players. Do either of their search results hint at a potential to beat Google?

A little background on the companies, which has an impressive staff of search experts and ex-Googlers, has come bounding out of the gate taking several direct pot shots at Google. The biggest one is the size of the cuil index and how quickly they were able to create it. The founders include Tom Costello, Anna Patterson and Russell Power. The company, which has raised $33 million so far, claims to have indexed 120 billion pages prior to launch, and has decided to change the search results page (how dare they?!) from the well known, tried and true single column layout to a multiple column format., a startup founded by Robert Reich (me), Peter Newcomb, David Mandell, and led by Kimbal Musk, launched its own search alpha to the public two weeks ago. The company, which bases its secret sauce on the browsing activity of real people has publicly stated it has half a million unique users surfing the web with the Me.dium sidebar and vetting a half billion web pages per month. The company has raised $20 million so far.

The Difference: People vs. Robots

The big difference between the two companies is how they crawl the web. Cuil uses Twicler, a robotic crawler, to build its index. Me.dium uses the actual browsing activity of people using a proprietary sensor along with a partnership with Yahoo. These two approaches produce very different results. I ran several tests and selected the following examples to illustrate the difference. The first is current and focused on Cuil and the second blends long tail and big head "Iran nuclear talks".

Search 1 - query "cuil new search engine" - query "cuil new search engine"

Search 2 - query "iran nuclear talks" - query "iran nuclear talks"


Me.dium's social search did a significantly better job at returning both types of queries. I am sure given enough time the Cuil engine will get better, but measuring Cuil's official release vs. Me.dium's alpha does not seem to be a contest. Yes, I am biased, but round one goes to Me.dium. Power to the people.

No comments: