Tag Archives: search

Cuil, The New Search Engine That Isn’t… Yet

Over the past few days, the blogosphere has been, well, blogging, about a new search engine developed by a couple ex-Google employees. Known as “Cuil,” which is apparently a Gaelic word for “Knowledge,” the search engine is attempting to be “the next Google.” (Side note: In case you didn’t know, it’s pronounced “Cool,” not “Quill.”)

I think the site has potential, if they put some serious work into it, but I don’t think they’ll be able to topple Google from their high throne. Google is, and probably will always be, the king of the serch engines. No other search site has become a synonym for “search.” No other search site has ever become a common colloquial verb. (Have you ever heard someone say “I Yahoo-ed it to see what it meant”?) Then you have the Google muscle memory, where you automatically type “Google.com” when you need to search something, the tight integration in Firefox, and all the other services in the Google empire (I’m so used to GMail/Google Apps I can baarely stand “normal” mail clients). And that’s leaving out the fact that I’ve never found a search engine that works as well. Cuil may one day become a major player, but it’s not going to take on Google.

Cuil has an innovative new interface, featuring three columns of search result blocks, which seems to be an effective way to display results, and “related” images are displayed alongside the results. They also have tabs along the top, which are supposed to lead to results in similar topics, and there is also a “drill-down” box to help you refine your query.

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Yahoo BOSS API

Yahoo BOSSYahoo recently released a new search API. Known as Yahoo BOSS, for “Build your Own Searcg Service,” the API allows you to query search results from their servers, format them however you want, mash the data up with other services, and even re-order results. You get “Unlimited*” queries (they just reserve “the right to limit unintended usage, such as automated querying by bots”) and they don’t even require attribution.

Even though I’m what you could possibly call a “Google/Apple fanboy” (though you would be advised to not say such things…), and I’ve long dismissed Yahoo as boring, geared towards web newbies, among other things, I have to admit, this is a great API. Google never gave us anything like this (despite their seemingly unlimited resources) and they discontinued their fairly limited search API. (As a side note, I also admit that Yahoo owns some great web services, such as Flickr and Del.icio.us.)

I’ve already got to work playing with the API, creating a sort of search mashup. I figured I’d share a little bit of code, and show you how to create a basic SERP. Be warned, the following requires PHP5 and some cURL black magic. (If you have no idea what I just said, read a book, and come back later.)

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Simplify Your Search?

Here’s something interesting to think about: Should you simplify the design of your search fields? Looking at various sites, like IMDB and Amazon, I’ve noticed that a lot of sites feature drop-down boxes allowing you to pick what areas of the site to search (in the case of Amazon, Books, DVD, Electronics, etc). Here are a couple of examples:

Then there are sites that move this feature to an “Advanced Search” page.

There are two arguments about this:

  1. It makes it easier to find things by offering more power up front.
  2. It confuses people to have too many options.

I kind of like having the extra functionality within reach when I’m searching, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. However, I absolutely cannot stand sites that force you to make a selection, rather than having an “all” option. It’s not like it’s difficult to create a search system that can look in all areas at once.

What do you think? Is it better to have the dropdown, or not? Why? Of course it really depends on the website, and the audience.

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