How Cool is Cuil and What of Wikia Search?

Michelle Stone - August 20, 2008

Now that some time has passed since the launch of Cúil (, one of two new search engines lauded as “Google killers”, let’s take a look at how Cúil has (or hasn’t) improved.

One of the initial quirks noticed when searching within Cúil, aside from the sporadic uptime due to the high-traffic interest, was that the image results didn’t always match with the content on Cúil’s results pages.   As we first noted in our blog on the day of launch, a query on “tree frogs” yielded interesting findings on the Cúil search engine results page (SERP).
Figure 1: Cúil search engine results page (SERP) from 29 July 2008

At the time, it did appear that the Cúil engine was in the process of learning — bettering its results as more and more people used it.   So what does the same query yield today?
Figure 2: Cúil search engine results page (SERP) from 19 August 2008

Comparing the two results pages, it’s easy to see that the image matching has greatly improved on Cúil.

How has the other of the two new search engines fared?   Much as Cúil gained early notice by virtue of their back story (the search engine was developed by ex-Google staffer Anna Patterson – who developed the TeraGoogle indexing system that Google still uses today – and her husband Tom Costello, who developed search engines at Stanford and IBM) the other contender, Wikia Search (, also boasts an impressive pedigree.

Wikia Search is the brainchild of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.   The “human-powered” search engine debuted officially in January and purported to be an open source Internet search engine.   Using our earlier example of “tree frog”, let’s see what the results are in Wikia Search.
Figure 3: Wikia Search SERP for “tree frog” query

One of the key components of Wikia Search was the fact that the engine encourages users to contribute to the search results, effectively making Wikia Search a form of a social networking search engine.   The “community” can build upon the search results through the use of an Add to this result feature which appears on the SERP itself (please see below).

Figure 4: Wikia Search “Add to the result” field highlighted

This week, Wikia Search has publicly demonstrated that it is moving forward with improving its results by updating its Grub web crawler tool ( and by encouraging users to become a part of the process by ranking websites and by downloading Grub.   Also, earlier this month, Wikia Search launched an official version of the Wikia ( toolbar.   This toolbar is available for download and can be added onto the Mozilla Firefox web browser.

Through all of the various ways in which Wikia Search can improve its results through community participation, a question arises — how can Wikia Search compete with Google in terms of perceived usefulness and relevance with the results?   Scrolling down the Wiki Search SERP for “tree frogs” shows an unusual result.
Figure 5: Wikia Search result for “tree frog” query highlighted

Mixed into the various “tree frog” related websites is an entry for a writers’ reference site.   What relevance does this have to tree frogs?   It’s difficult to say off-hand.   What is apparent is how out of place this result seems to be for the “tree frog” SERP.

While Cúil and Wikia Search are making progress in improving their search results, they both still have quite a ways to go in order to become the “Google killers” they were reported to be.   According to data reports from Hitwise (, the Internet monitoring company which measures market share, last month the Google search engine accounted for just over 70 percent of all online search engine queries.   Based on that number, it’s plain to see that the two newest players have a long climb to the top.

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