Cuil vs. Google: Can David Beat Goliath?

But technology forecaster Paul Saffo says comparing a startup to an established leader like Google is unfair.

"Everyone's doing what you expect and trying Cuil and comparing it to searches they've found on Google, and it sort of misses the point," Saffo said. "You don't get $33 million to compete against Google. That's a suicide mission. You get $33 million to create a search experience that's different from Google."

Saffo maintains that Cuil isn't a search engine -- at least, not in the traditional sense, but instead, a new kind of search experience for people who might be intimidated by Google's one-line entries.

The privacy that Cuil promises is also a boon for the "search experience," according to Saffo.

"Increasingly, people are going to become very worried about the tracks they leave in cyberspace. So, absolutely, this is a good thing," he said. "Privacy is an increasingly scarce resource on the Web, and it's going to be something that people will value more and more."

But whether that will be a huge selling point for a majority of consumers remains to be seen, according to Allen Weiner, a research analyst at Gartner, an information technology research company.

"I don't know how good of a job they've done in selling that to people, but I think, certainly, them bringing it to the public's attention doesn't hurt," he said.

Cuil also faces another barrier, according to Weiner: being solely a search engine.

"Does Cuil really pose a challenge to Google? As of what I can see at this point, the answer is no. I think being able to index a huge number of Web pages is only part of a solution," he said.

Google, Yahoo and their ilk are not just places people go to search for information, but, rather, online destinations where they can search Web pages, video and images, as well as keep e-mail accounts and check out news portals.

"Consumers have been used to going to search engines to do more than search," Weiner said. "They like to search by content type: news and pictures and video. At least at this point, none of that is available [on Cuil]. ... The next generation of search is not about searching more stuff on the Web, but doing a better job of searching video and images, to allowing people to create and share content."

All the experts interviewed say it's too early to predict Cuil's future. In the end, according to Schonfeld, users (not reporters like me or bloggers like him) will ultimately determine whether Cuil sinks or swims.

"People have to keep hearing about it, not just from the media, but from their friends," he said. "They want people to say it's really cool. But it's not -- yet."

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