Towards the end of last month (Feb) it was reported that Google had purchased a number of patent applications submitted by the now defunct search engine, Cuil, so what does this mean for SEO?
What is (or was) Cuil?
Cuil was a search engine boasting a massive index of sites with information-rich results and when it went live on July 28, 2008, Cuil was expected by many to soon pose a major threat to industry giant Google, even being dubbed a potential “Google killer” by some.
However, despite the hype which surrounded its unveiling, many people soon forgot about the company following its demise two years later in 2010.
However, it has now come to light that Google didn’t forget – and in fact now owns seven pending patents, which were filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Cuil’s chief executive and former IBM employee, Tom Costello, back in July 2008. The discovery was made by Bill Slawski, who published the story on his SEO By The Sea blog.
At its launch, Cuil had roughly three times as many web pages as Google within its index and 10 times as many as Microsoft.
However, according to Slawski, ex-Google employee Louis Monier left the company shortly after the launch and just over two years after going live, Cuil closed down shop in September 2010.
Critics have insinuated that the search engine launched before it was ready for public scrutiny, and the low quality of its initial search results meant that most people quickly reverted back to good old Google.
So what does Google plan to do with the patents?
SEO news website eWeek reported that Google had confirmed the purchase, but declined to offer any insight into what it might do with the patents applications. No financial terms relating to the purchase have been disclosed either.
The filed documents relate primarily to user interfaces and the way search engine results are displayed. Cuil presented its results in columns with thumbnail images displayed next to the returned results, rather than in a single list.
But the look of Cuil was one of the things that critics of the search engine focused on, along with concerns about the relevancy of the results being returned.
Time’s Techland news site has suggested that Google may simply be “beefing up its patent portfolio” in an attempt to protect itself from further lawsuits that could crop up in the future.
So whether Google chooses to let Cuil’s pending patents gather dust simply to keep it from competitors, or presents them with a ’12 Angry Men’ flourish in a courtroom one day, or even chooses to integrate some of the ideas into its own user interface, it appears that the Cuil story that everyone thought was dead and buried, may yet have another chapter.