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Astart-up led by former Google engineers has unveiled a new web search service that aims to outdo the internet search leader in size.Cuil (pronounced 'cool') is offering a new search service at that the company claims can index, faster and more cheaply, a far larger portion of the the Web than Google, which boasts the largest online index.The would-be Google rival says its

service goes beyond prevailing search techniques that focus on web links and audience traffic patterns and instead analyses the context of each page and the concepts behind each search request."Our significant breakthroughs in search technology have enabled us to index much more of the internet, placing nearly the entire Web at the fingertips of every user," said Tom Costello, Cuil co-founder and chief executive.Danny Sullivan, a web search analyst and editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, said Cuil can try to exploit complaints consumers may have with Google - namely, that it tries to do too much, that its results favour already popular sites, and that it leans heavily on certain sites such as Wikipedia."The time may be right for a challenger," Sullivan says, but adds quickly: "Competing with Google is still a very daunting task, as Microsoft will tell you."Aa Microsoft, the number three US player in web search, has been seeking in vain, so far, to join forces with number two Yahoo to battle Google.Cuil was founded by a group of search pioneers, including Costello, who built a prototype of Web Fountain, IBM's web search analytics tool, and his wife, Anna Patterson, the architect of Google's massive TeraGoogle index of web pages. The couple are joined by two former Google colleagues, Russell Power and Louis Monier. Previously, Monier led the redesign of ecommerce leader eBay's search engine and was the founding chief technology officer of two 1990sAa milestones, AltaVista and BabelFish, the first language translation site."They do have the talent that is used to building large, industrial-strength search engines," Sullivan says of Cuil.

Cuil clusters the results of each web search performed on the service into groups of related web pages. It sorts these by categories and offers various organising features to help identify topics and allow the user to quickly refine searches.User privacy is another appeal of its approach, Cuil says. Because the service focuses on the content of the pages rather than click history, the company has no need to store users' personal information or their search histories, it says.Cuil has indexed a whopping 120 billion web pages, three times more than what they say Google now indexes, Patterson said, adding the company has spent just $5 million.

Google itself preemptively responded to Cuil's arrival with a blog post on Friday boasting of the growing scale of its own web search operations.Sullivan said he puts no stock in either company's boasts about the size of their indexes, since it has only an indirect effect on the ultimate success web surfers have in searching. And Cuil's privacy virtues are exaggerated, he adds.

Initially, Cuil is optimised for American English. Later this year, the company plans to enable Cuil users to perform searches in major European languages, Patterson said.Eventually, Cuil plans to make money by running ads alongside search resultsAa but provided no further details.There seemed to be some teething problems yesterday, however. A visit to the site returned only the following message:"Due to overwhelming interest, our Cuil servers are running a bit hot right now. The search engine is momentarily unavailable as we add more capacity."

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jul 29, 2008
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