From the dark ages (read: AltaVista was among the best search engines around) search on the Web was pretty much typing in a query and going through a long list of excerpts from pages that might or might not have something to do with what you were looking for.
Google has been trying to jazz things up a bit with Google Goggles and the like, but a radically different idea comes from a Google Killer wanna-be, cuil – the new cpedia generates Wikipedia-like articles automatically, pulling information from the wealth of knowledge available on the Net. Great idea, but there are a few problems with it…
Now, cuil (it’s pronounced “cool” for some reason) was created by ex-Google employees (so, they should know what they’re doing, right?) but judging by the puzzled expression on your face, you’ve never heard of cuil before.
Here’s the idea behind cpedia – instead of getting a “long list of excerpts” as results for your search, you get an article that looks much like a Wikipedia article. But here’s the catch – it wasn’t written by humans (not directly anyway), it was thrown together by using parts of other pages on the subject.
Looking through the results, you get the feeling that if this worked, it’d be amazing. But it doesn’t – at least not for now. For example, the article on the iPhone 3GS begins with the following:
Behold the collective wisdom
Biased? Poorly worded? Not very informative? Just plain wrong? Well, sure, but just look at the entertainment value. For one, half the paragraphs are in first person singular, and one paragraph even asks for advice – get a BlackBerry, Nokia Eseries or iPhone 3GS?
Checking on the competition, the cpedia article on Wikipedia articles snipes:
“Placing links into wrong Wikipedia articles or just placing links to Wikispecies articles that are by some considered to not be continuative (“of more use”) could be a big problem, unfortunately. ”
It goes on to add: “the average Wikipedian is a white male, 15 49 years old“. Now, I’m sure most Wikipedians don’t look a day over a millennium, so that’s just name calling.
Anyway, I’ll stick with Google for now and keep an eye on Google Squared, but it was a lot of fun browsing random articles on cpedia and hunting down snippets of funny, incoherent rambling sourced from that endless repository of humor, otherwise known as the Internet.