I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the webinar reserved for researchers that was given by Wolfram. Actually through my good colleague Chris Rines, I was able to get an invite! It was at 4am for me here in Oz but I really really wanted to see what all the fuss had been about.
What it is:
Indeed Wolfram Alpha is not a “Google killer”. It is such a different kind of search engine, and yes, revolutionary. It makes me feel like Wikipedia is the one that might suffer with the launch to a degree. It doesn’t have an index full of pages crawled off the web like other search engines do. It doesn’t return a list of documents. It does not in fact list any sites as such, there is no SERPS.
It has a knowledgebase. This is “A store of knowledge about a domain represented in machine-processable form” (ICH). It’s a search engine to find answers to questions. The output is remarkable. Jaw droppingly remarkable.
Now for me to be so excited about a new search engine and find myself drooling all over my keyboard in awe, it has got to be good. Getting such praise from me is nothing short of a miracle, but this engine is the result of years of research and no miracle was involved as far as I know.
The examples that were presented were quite impressive. There was no hiding that it was an Alpha but I have seen hideous Betas and finished offerings in my time. This Alpha was much much better than those! Here are a few of the examples:
- Type in an equation = it gives you a page with alternative ones, the full scientific equation, graphs, further information…
- Type in “What is the GDP of x country” = gives you all the statistics and also graphs and visuals…
- Type in 2 names of people like Einstein and Bill Gates = It’ll give you a table comparing both side by side
- Type in “weather Sydney” you will get the forecast and can look at the history, rainfall and so on
- Type in your blood sugar level or something and it will show you information related to that and where you stand according to the norm etc…
- Type in a site to get traffic information
- Type in queries about a mortgage and it can return pertinent information
- You can do expert level computation without being an expert
- and so so so much more!
What it means:
It is not a Google killer because it isn’t at all the same beast. What it may well do is steal traffic for information queries from it. From the demo I would say that it was far superior to Google for these types of queries. Wolfram does return a Wikipedia link if it doesn’t have enough information for you, but I can certainly see myself favouring Wolfram. If will contain more and more information the more it is used, and therefore grow into a rather large entity!
I particularly look forward to entering “algorithm for anaphora resolution” and getting a list of recommendations. How cool is that!
I think that this is the best review I have ever given a search engine to date, and it is well deserved. Students, academics, researchers, business people, those working with statistics, or just about any type of knowledge will also be singing its praises no doubt.