I already wrote in detail about Cuil’s branding crimes last week.

Then an interview by Silicon Alley Insider’s Peter Kafka with Cuil’s CEO  Tom Costello today reminded us of everything that went wrong with the would-be Google competitor’s lauch, as well as everything that is still wrong with it.

While apparently the outages of the first days have subsided, many of Cuil’s search results are still low on relevancy, and still juxtapose seemingly random images from other websites with a given search result (prompting some cries of copyright violations).

There was much discussion over on FriendFeed involving Robert Scoble and others as to whether this "launch" was done just to position them for a buy-out by e.g. Microsoft for the technology. I tend to agree, given how obviously poorly everything was executed.

They had to have known results weren’t going to be very good, even more so about the sometimes outright embarrassing "false image" issues.

If they didn’t, this would constitute a formidable case of group think, against which one would think there should have been at least some push-back/reality-checking from the venture capitalists that put $33 Million of funding into Cuil.

Then again, they let Mr. "I’m Irish, it seemed natural enough, and works for me" Costello get away with naming the thing "Cuil".

When prompted about the questionable brand naming choice, Mr. Costello attempted a weak defense by saying "[i]t’s hard to find a four letter name…". Why did it need to be a four letter name? Were they trying to defeat Google through shortness of the domain?!?

(Incidentally, very short domain names haven’t really worked out particularly well for anyone, just ask Ask.com, Buy.com, and others.)

Too-cute-by-half "Cuil" comes across like a development code name (like "Longhorn" for Vista, etc.), not like the final product of a well-thought-out branding exercise. Which of course would lend further credence to the idea that this "launch" may have simply been a "buy us already" plea.

It gets even funnier now that a number of sites have posted strong evidence that the Gaelic word "cuil", while leaving the company open to all manner of misspellings and mispronunciations, really doesn’t mean "knowledge" (as still claimed by Costello and Co.) after all.

Given all of these "shenanigans" (sorry, couldn’t resist… and who did these guys have for Gaelic teachers anyway? :), it comes as little surprise that Cuil has now apparently lowered their target from Google slayer to Google backup:

it’s not supposd to be better than Google – just an alternative…

Another similar "crime against branding" name for a start-up recently went to the "deadpool": News personalization site Thoof.com. Their CEO probably also thought that the name was intuitive and "worked for them"…

52 thoughts on “Cuil One Week On: “Worst. Launch. Ever.” Redux

  1. I can’t believe they invested so much money, and did a such a poor job in choosing name of their brand… And i am still not sure how “cuil” should be pronounced.. That is how you pass when you try to make something for fast sell.

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