Cuil: Terminally uncool

Lessons for all companies that want to compete in Web applications of any kind

Indeed, according to Hitwise, since Cuil's much hyped launch the site traffic had plummeted from 0.06 per cent of Web visits to 0.0075 per cent by August 5:

"As of this Tuesday, August 5, Cuil.com ranked as the #1034 most visited Web site amongst all Web sites, and in the #34 position in our search engines category. We are also getting basic demographic data and lifestyle (Mosaic) segmentation on visitors to this new engine. The site is skewing male (64.4 per cent) and here's an interesting tidbit, the largest age segment of visitors is 55+ (36.3 per cent). This is probably due to the influx of traffic from news sites covering the search engine's launch."

The bottom line is that Cuil has been a big disappointment and has lost whatever opportunity they may have had to get "traction" in the search market. And unless Cuil has something really cool up its sleeve then along with that lost opportunity will be the loss of the US$33 million venture capital investment.

I think that in this tale are tremendous lessons for all companies that want to compete in Web applications of any kind not just the search engine world:

1. Know what service attributes you are selling and make sure they are meaningful and valuable to the market. If you're selling size then make sure you are consistent in your marketing messages and can defend or explain anything that contradicts your pitch.

2. You have to deliver what you promise. Cuil promised a better search but didn't deliver.

3. Users interfaces help to sell and if the underlying service is up to scratch then a good user interface can seal the deal. But if the service isn't what it is supposed to be, no amount of polish or chrome can save you - you are doomed.

4. If you fire up the hype machine and you have no 'there' there then your opportunity will rush towards the horizon with it's backside on fire.

R.I.P. Cuil.

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Mark Gibbs

Network World
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