Ever since Google established itself as the Big Dog in online search with 35% of the market share in 2001, whenever there has been a new search engine or search technology brewing there has been an expectation (by someone somewhere) that it will be a “Google Killer”.
Here are a few of the more buzzworthy Google-killers from the last few years:
In 2010, expect to see even more “killers” in the online world. Its no longer about who is going to try to overtake Google in search market share…there have been tons of attempts, but nothing has taken hold up to this point.
Now we are seeing more “killers” in the social media space. But history has taught us not to attack Google where they dominate — search. Social Channels play nice with Google when it comes to search. While many social platforms have developed their own search engine — they still rely on the big 3; make that 2 engines to power the results. However, there is opportunity to attack Google in other places that can be damaging, like email / Gmail. Have you heard about Facebook’s webmail that is in development?
But Google is always ready to pull something from their arsenal – and it is not Microsoft, Facebook, or even Twitter that seems to be on the radar — despite the rollout of Google Buzz, called a Twitter-killer by some. Rather, we are seeing Google penetrate and gain momentum in other areas like mobile with the Nexus phone (iPhone killer) and Chrome OS Tablet (iPad killer). This crossover into retail mobile should help Google continue to dominate in the online world.
Even more interesting to watch will be Google’s foray into broadband with their 1-gigabit-per-second broadband networks.
Now that some time has passed since the launch of CÃºil (www.cuil.com), one of two new search engines lauded as “Google killers”, let’s take a look at how CÃºil has (or hasn’t) improved.
One of the initial quirks noticed when searching within CÃºil, aside from the sporadic uptime due to the high-traffic interest, was that the image results didn’t always match with the content on CÃºil’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 CÃºil search engine results page (SERP).
Figure 1: CÃºil search engine results page (SERP) from 29 July 2008
At the time, it did appear that the CÃºil 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: CÃºil 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 CÃºil.
How has the other of the two new search engines fared? Much as CÃºil 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 (re.search.wikia.com), 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 (www.grub.org) 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 (www.wikia.com) 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 CÃºil 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 (www.hitwise.com), 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.
While Google still reigns as the king of search, this does not discourage new search engines from trying to take over the kingdom. The newest challenger to the throne is the recently launched Cuil(http://www.cuil.com/). Cuil claims to index three times more pages than Google, and ten times more than Microsoft. Cuil hopes to deliver better results based on page content, not popularity (or, links).
The much hyped search engine was launched on Monday, July 28 2008. In surface comparison, it has a much different look and feel compared to the traditional search engines. Instead of listing results in a top ten list fashion, Cuil uses two or three columns, based on the user’s preferences, to display results. While it can be inferred that the number one position would be the listing in the top left corner, it is not clear as to what the other positions mean. Because of this format, Cuil is able to display longer descriptions and images associated with the listings. One of the issues we are already seeing is that the image being displayed with the listings often does not appear on the site or is even irrelevant to the key phrase. An interesting example can be seen below:
Another issue that caught our attention was the fact that the site suffered downtime as a result of the number of inquiries it had to handle on its launch date. Cuil received so many visitors on Monday that their servers crashed around 3:00 PM EST. For an Internet search engine, .this is not the best result, but it does demonstrate the amount of interest in their offering (at the moment, they claim that users can search 121,617,892,992 web pages).
Initially Cuil doesn’t seem to be the either “The World’s Biggest Search Engine” (as claimed on their site) or even a so-called “Google Killer”. Regardless of what Cuil intends to be, it’s important to keep in mind that it is only in its infancy. Cuilwill be something to monitor over time to see what transpires. At this stage, the makers are still working out the bugs and trying to produce a relevant and useful search experience.