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Librarians Exploring Cuil

Submitted by Daniel A. Freeman on August 1, 2008 - 10:30am

In the culture of the Internet, the sound byte and 24/7 cable news networks, as soon as something is praised, it gets torn down and trounced. This process has accelerated so quickly that it sometimes seems like the two things are happening simultaneously.

This has definitely been the case with Cuil As soon as Cuil developed a mainstream media buzz, the mainstream media was there to kill the buzz, declaring it “No Threat to Google”. As anyone who watches cable news knows, it can be tough to have a conversation when all you’ve got is two diametrically opposed sides screaming their heads off at one another.

It’s been nice to see that the discussion out here in the libraryland  blogosphere has been a lot more rational and down to earth. A short piece Monday in Wired Campus reported an initially positive reaction among librarians, and privacy advocates are thrilled with the fact that Cuil has made privacy a high priority.

But it’s not whether or not librarians like Cuil— and it’s too soon to tell anyway--that makes our discussion so good, it’s the fact that we are exploring it. We are trying things out, asking questions, thinking about usability, and delineating exactly what is new and different about this search engine.

Now I know that in 2008 it may seem a little crazy to actually try to figure out what something is and how it works before describing it in hyperbole, but I guess that even in the library technology world we’re kind of old fashioned.

Google is still the unrivaled leader among search engines, and I suspect that probably won’t change for a long time. But is Cuil a big deal? Absolutely. In a time when conglomeration and monopolization limit so many of our choices, Cuil is a reminder that as long as there is freedom of ideas, there will be freedom of choice. It doesn’t matter if Cuil is a threat to Google or not. As the first high-profile effort to try to improve upon Google’s core model, Cuil matters.