Ex-Google employees launch new search engine Cuil

With the goal of proving searchers with richer Internet depth, a new search engine, Cuil launched today.

The engine has indexed more than 120 billion Web pages, which the company claims is “three times as many as Google.”

Google has not disclosed the size of its index in recent years. The search giant said it hit the one billion mark as of 2000. In a July 25 blog post, the company states that it’s “proud to have the most comprehensive index of any search engine.”

Anna Patterson, Russell Power and Tom Costello founded Cuil, which is pronounced “cool” and means “knowledge” in old Irish. According to the company, Patterson, who is married to Costello, used to work at Google where she was the architect of its search index. Power is also a former Google employee, while Costello “researched and developed search engines at Stanford University and IBM,” the company said.

According to the company, Cuil displays search results based on content and relevance, not popularity. In addition, the engine said it does not keep any “personally identifiable information on users or their search histories.”

“We believe that analyzing the Web rather than our users is a more useful approach, so we don’t collect data about you and your habits, lest we are tempted to peek,” the company stated on its Web site.

The Menlo Park, CA-based company received series A funding from Tugboat Ventures and Greylock Partners, and series B funding from Madrone Capital Partners.

“We welcome competition that stimulates innovation and provides users with more choice,” said Katie Watson, a Google spokeswoman, when contacted by e-mail about the Cuil launch.

On Monday, searches on Cuil appeared to be slow on the site. Results were displayed in columns of two or three, with some including thumbnail images.

A search for “shoes” yielded a number of results, as well as a box where users could explore results by category (either by “Sports Footwear,” “Shoe Brands,” “Shoe Companies of the United States,” or curiously by “Broadway Musicals” or “American Musicals”). Tabs for “Nike shoes,” “running shoes” and “golf shoes” appeared in the top left-hand corner of the results page. No advertisements appeared on the results page.

When contacted by e-mail, a Cuil spokeswoman who declined to be named said that the site’s “current focus” was on building the “best search engine possible.”

“We expect that we will be able to adopt a standard search engine advertising model in the future,” she added.

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