When ignorance is bliss

This morning’s Observer column

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. We saw two examples of this last week. The first came when a new search engine – Cuil (www.cuil.com) – was unveiled. The launch was an old-style PR operation. Some influential bloggers and mainstream reporters had been briefed in advance, and whispers were circulating in cyberspace that this would be Something Big. Cuil would be the ‘Google Killer’ everyone had been waiting for.

Evidence for this hypothesis was freely cited. The venture was the brainchild of ‘former Google employees’: nudge, nudge. At least one of them had been at Stanford, the university that nurtured the founders of both Yahoo and Google: wink, wink. It had indexed no fewer than 121 billion web pages, compared with Google’s measly 40 billion: Wow! Cuil had already received $33m in venture funding! Cue trumpets.

So many people were taken in by this that when cuil.com finally opened for business the site was swamped…