Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]
Do you remember Cuil, the search engine that launched to tectonic hype as a potential Google-killer? If not don’t worry, the search engine was universally panned.
It was just too far behind the rest of the pack, and despite $33 million in funding, was never able to catch up. For nearly everyone, the company just disappeared. As it turns out, the company is not dead. To the contrary, they just dropped a major release.
Launching today is Cpedia, a massive auto-generated encyclopedia that “find[s] everything on the Web about your topic, remove[s] all the duplication and put the information on one page.” If Cuil can pull this off, the company could stage a comeback. The question now becomes, it this Cpedia any good?
What I Expected
I have to admit, given the company’s reputation, and my gaping disbelief at the scale of the project that they seemed to be undertaking, my expectations were not high. Building an encyclopedia without editors, just from pulling in and aggregating information from all around the internet is no small task.
No one else is trying this. Wikipedia does it by hand, Google doesn’t aggregate into articles or long-form text. What Cuil is trying with Cpedia feels unique.
The project has miles to go before I would use it consistently, but it does have potential. The results are very broad, and tend to have stacks of loose information pasted to the page. Check out the Metallica or Beethoven pages for context. The articles lack focus, continuity, and an effective layout, leaving the project feeling unfinished.
However the pages that Cpedia has created are hardly useless, if you parse the often odd English, you can extract gulps information. It takes time, but you can learn.
Have you ever wanted a Wikipedia article on yourself? Well, too bad, you don’t have one. You however probably do have a Cpedia page, if that makes you feel better. Cuil has 384,165,027 Cpedia pages in total. What does it not have pages on? Well, “list of smurfs” and “asdfdfasdfadfa” for starters.
This is the strength that I see in Cpedia, that it has a page on nearly everything, from Low Sodium Soy Sauce, to Charlie Munger.
What To Change
Whenever Wikipedia lacks a page, and Google is not helping me too much, I can see myself using Cpedia to get a laundry list of facts on a topic. But then again, I am not averse to slogging through chaff to get the data I need. The average consumer is.
For Cpedia to have a chance, Cuil needs to fix the data arrangement issues that the pages have. It needs, somehow, get people in there to make changes. For humans, by humans makes for readable text.
Cpedia is just too rough in its current form to be a full consumer product. Then again, it has a good start, accumulating all the data that it could need. It even has a full sketch of how it should eventually look. It needs to be polished.
What About Old Cuil?
It lives on, you just need to toggle to it. If you prefer the old Cuil results over Cpedia, you can change your preferences to use them as the default. Also, if you do head to a page that does have a Cpedia page, you are shown normal Cuil results.
Cuil’s normal web search is still not impressive, which, given the company’s focus on Cpedia is not surprising. Resources are never unlimited.
If I were you, I would play with Cpedia, it is, if nothing else, an interesting technology problem and partial answer. And still, it is quite fun to read the page on yourself. Best of luck Cuil, spruce up Cpedia and you just might have found a product that Google has yet to match.
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