When I joined Searchme in 2006 a couple other startup search engines were making headlines. Powerset, which recently got bought by Microsoft, and Cuil, which launched today.
Cuil has been known as the startup building the huge index. I ran some pet queries and it seems like they’re pretty comprehensive, though other people have emailed me about missing results for their queries. So try it yourself. The UI is mostly text, with a couple visual elements thrown in like thumbnails next to results. For the life of me though, I can’t figure out where they got the thumbnails used for a query for Searchlounge. The text is in columns like a newspaper. They’ve implemented a query suggest tabbed feature along the top of the SERP, and an Explore by Category feature on the right (strangely several times when I clicked this I got a no result page, so must be something buggy).
I’m not going to delve into a relevance analysis, so give it a whirl yourself and see what you think. There are tons of posts already about it, but here’s Techcrunch’s: Cuil Exits Stealth Mode With A Massive Search Engine
What if search engines did the following?
Looked for all the queries that returned no results.
Clustered those queries into topics.
And then either:
a) Paid people to create matching content.
b) Sold that list of queries/topics to 3rd party companies.
Imagine all the spam.
Imagine this scenario: you get a letter at your home saying come to an address because your favorite shoes are on sale, and you go there and instead they pack you into a bus and drive you across town to another store. And at that second store they force you to show them your driver’s license and they write down where you live, how old you are, and what kind of car you drive. Then they blindfold you and pack you back into the bus and drive you to a shoe store where you find the shoes you want. If you called the police they’d investigate. It’s suspicious.
Now take that scenario and apply it to the web: no physical transportation, but you go to a web site (via a spam email, a web search, browsing, whatever) and you get redirected to a retailer’s site and they capture your IP address and some info about your computer, browser, and operating system. If you called the authorities they wouldn’t know what to do. They rely on search engines to police the net, yet search engines can only remove sites from their results, not from the web.