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.


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