By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 12:40 am
Remember Cuil? Back in 2008, The search engine gained brief notoriety back in 2008 by claiming to be better than Google when it was in fact laughably, bizarrely bad. Then it mostly disappeared, except when bloggers need a synonym for “failed launch” or “unbridled hubris.”
Now Cuil is back with a new project I learned about in a GigaOM post by Matthew Ingram: Cpedia, an algorithmic encyclopedia with more than 384 million “automated articles.” Cuil founder and CEO Tom Costello explains:
Cpedia returns an automatically written article in response to a query, rather than a list of hits. It can be very compelling; it is especially good at surfacing facts that I didn’t know before. At other times it is weird — it does reflect the web after all.
[section explaining that Cpedia censors offensive matter snipped]
I find Cpedia best on topics that I thought I knew about. I find out things I should have known but didn’t. I’ve noticed productivity has slowed in the company since we have had it up for internal testing, as people ask each other about stranger and stranger trivia, or exclaim, “I didn’t know your middle name was Hector?”
Cpedia is very different from a traditional search engine, and not at all like Wikipedia, but that is its strength; it is something new and different. I hope you like it. I certainly do.
Different? Weird? I’ll say. So far, the best articles I’ve checked out consist of brief excerpts from other sources–often only vaguely related to the alleged topic–that have been assembled in seemingly random order into a jumble of paragraphs that are robbed of their context. The worst entries? Even the sentences in them are unintelligible.
Here are excerpts from a couple of typical entries:
The entry on Cuil itself is rife with gibberish (“Clickbooth Cuil but not avail due to flooding traffics…”)
Here’s a section from the entry on…me:
Cuil’s executive team boasts former Google and IBM search scientists, and multiple PhDs from Stanford. And maybe the company has an idiosyncratic sense of humor. Given that Cpedia launched on April 8th, I’m not discounting the possibility that it’s all an elaborate practical joke. It certainly tops most of the stuff here…