In re: Wolfram|Alpha – Google killer?


“Wolfram|Alphas long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.” (from Wolfram|Apha’s about page)

Is Wolfram|Alpha a Google killer? Well no, actually Wolfram|Alpha is seeking to do things differently as its not a search engine of the internet, but I would still think Google is worried because it is organizing information and making it more useful.  Google does a bit of this already, you can type in ” 2 + 2″ in the query box and get an answer from Google, rather than from another website.  This is the gist of Wolfram|Alpha, but taken to a much higher level.

While the site is brand new and still has a long road of improvement ahead of it, I see it as the future.  I know that is kinda a bold, stupid statement, but what it is capable of is a lot.  To back up, the difference between a Google search and what Wolfram|Alpha is attempting to do is that Wolfram|Alpha is presenting you the results, not leading you elsewhere and it is understanding the results based on understanding your answer, the more important part is it can manipulate the information.  This is the power.  Quick examples of this would be looking up the weather on the day Mark Twain died.  If you wanted to do this on a normal search engine you do two searches, first to find the date and then a historical weather search.  Not the case on W|A where you can treat the death of Mark Twain as the date input for the weather search (it actually doesn’t have the data on the weather in 1910 so it shows historical weather for the day of the year).  Normally though W|A will combine the two and get you the result.  Similarly it is useful to compare things, say how many golden gate bridges lengths = the height of mt everest (here) note you do need to use a syntax it understand even though you can use plain english.  Other interesting examples included comparing the GDPs of countries (it will create comparison graphs, show by year etc all on its own).

Essentially the power is that you are working with a vast array of information and you are able to manipulate it, this is crazy and exciting and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the science and math stuff that I am sure are useful to others, just over my head.  Check it out here, also check out their video that shows some of the things it can do, but just imagine this 10 years from now when it has grown and improved.  The reason I mention 10 years is because people just don’t get this thing right now (it is really really new of course) but it also doesn’t work well for a lot of people (see story here) and this author is quite right that right now its for science folks and geeks, but the idea is powerful and I predicate will gain traction and improve.


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