Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wolf at the Door?

It’s already been labelled a potential “Google-killer”, so is Google’s position as King of the search engines really under threat or is this merely a case of crying wolf? Dr Wolfram, the British creator of Wolfram Alpha is keen to stress that his is a long term project and that we shouldn’t get too carried away just yet. Wolfram Alpha (www.wolframalpha.com) is not a traditional search engine, but a “computational knowledge engine.” WA only became available online to the public last Monday and it is quickly evident in how it differs from Google. After playing around on it for a few minutes (well worth a try...) it’s advantages as well as its shortcomings are clear. Whereas Google will offer you thousands of webpages for anything you type in, WA only offers answers from its database and no links. This means that if you want to know the nutritional value of 2 slices of swiss cheese, the position of the interantional space station or answers to your maths homework then WA is the place to go as you will get all the information you need neatly laid out in a table format. However, type in Spice Girls as your search and almost inexplicably, there is no information available. Similarly, if you’re looking for a new camera, WA can tell you that the word camera is spoken on average 1 in every 37,000 words but can’t direct you to the latest cut price Sony. Dr Wolfram and his staff are constantly adding to WA’s database but it seems for now that it can’t really be seen as a competitor to Google but instead as an interesting alternative. Furthermore, due to its advanced question answering capabilities, it may also be particularly useful as an alternative to student’s favourite Wikipedia. It’s arrival has also coincided with Google announcing that it will shortly be releasing Google Squared, its own new hybrid of Search Engine and “computational knowledge engine”. Therefore, this competition offered by WA can only be good news for keen web users and searchers as it offers a new alternative way of searching for data whilst simultaneously ensuring that Google has to keep evolving. So, for those fans of random facts and those keen for tables of data, I’d advise you to head to WA. For the rest of you, it’s probably best to stick to Google for now. Feel free to let me know your own opinions of WA and until next time, hasta luego...x


  1. A really well written account from someone who obviously knows what they are talking about. I could not agree with the author more in that at this stage it is no way a competitor to google and is a long way off.

    A great article by clearly a great guy.

  2. First and foremost I must commend the authour of this piece. So well written and clearly thought out. I went away really feeling like I had a good idea of what Wolfram Alpha really is.

    Secondly, although the site is clearly in its early stages of development, it obviously has a lot of scope and potential to be a great search engine.

    I look forward to trying it out when it really is 'alive and kicking.'