Wolfram Alpha: The Search is on

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The Economist:

IT IS the curse of every internet search engine to be compared to Google, master of the universe and supreme ruler over two-thirds of such searches. Since newcomers never measure up to the breadth and depth of the billions of pages that Google has indexed over the past decade, most of these comparisons end with an easy win for the incumbent. Pretenders to the throne, nevertheless, keep appearing.

The latest, to be launched on May 18th, is Wolfram Alpha. It is named after its inventor, Stephen Wolfram, a British prodigy who earned his PhD in physics at the tender age of 20 and made a fortune from a calculation and graphing software package called Mathematica--and who raised eyebrows when he proposed, in a self-published tome in 2002, that the entire universe is but a giant calculator that has been running for billions of years.

To be fair, many of the overblown expectations surrounding Alpha do not stem from Dr Wolfram himself. Indeed, he describes his invention not as a search engine but as a "computational knowledge engine". The quirky label is not only an attempt to sidestep a confrontation with Google, but also hints at Alpha's different approach to answering questions.

Richard Waters:
So what exactly IS a "computational knowledge engine"?

Whoever devised the "soft launch" plan for Steven Wolfram's new search engine - er, computational knowledge engine - deserves a bonus.

Since Wolfram Alpha was shown off informally to a group of online writers earlier this month, the hype has been building fast. Before long, the question was inescapable: Has the Google-killer finally arrived?

So how does the experience compare to the anticipation? The "alpha" version of the service went live (after a bumpy start) over the weekend. Here are a few impressions, from our own tests and those of other reviewers:

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Zellmer published on May 19, 2009 9:13 AM.

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