Wolfram Alpha, The Only Search Engine You Need?

Okay, I missed the long awaited release of Wolfram Alpha, the all new search engine that has been creating tons of anticipatory buzz for several months now, but not by much: it was quietly rolled out on Friday night with the official launch scheduled for today.

WordPressI first heard of the search engine this past January and immediately became intrigued by what it promised to do. However, given the previous great Cuil failure, I approached Wolfram Alpha’s release with a bit of trepidation, fearing that the hype would lead to a major disappointment. I’m happy to report that Wolfram doesn’t disappoint, in fact I think it’ll supplement Google search in the minds of many web users.

My Review, Just A Preview

Just to let you know, I have yet to spend endless hours on Wolfram so my review is from a “first look” perspective. Over an extended period of time I’ll gradually examine what Wolfram has to offer before offering up a full review, meanwhile I’m sure you’ll be reading a lot about this search engine elsewhere over the coming days.

For hardcore search engine geeks — that would be anyone who long ago embraced Google search as their default search engine of choice — the question that comes up with Wolfram is why do we need a new search engine? Well, we don’t but I’m a firm believer in competition and I also think  that there is room for improvement/refinement with all of our favorite online tools including Google search.  Google Squared was just released which, from what I’ve heard, will provide similar results as Wolfram.

Your Computational Search Engine

Wolfram approaches search differently from basic Google search in that if you enter a term you aren’t going to be served up an endless number of pages which may or may or may not have anything to do with what you’re looking for. Nor will you be subjected to endless contextual ads at least not initially.

For example, when I entered the term “New York” in the search bar, the results served up were for New York City, listing the city’s population, the population of the metropolitan area, a map of the 48 contiguous United States pinpointing New York’s location, local time, current temperature and elevation. Click on a couple links and you can see satellite imagery of the city and retrieve coordinates. And, if you really meant New York State instead of the city, one additional click can bring you information about the state.

Keep Your Queries Simple!

In short, Wolfram Alpha is a computational knowledge engine, one that serves up math based answers. So far I’ve discovered the simpler the query submitted, the better for getting spot on answers.

For example, if your question is, “How many miles from New York to Miami?”  you’ll get “Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input” as your answer. However, if you make your query simple such as “distance New York Miami” you’ll get an answer. So, keep it simple and Wolfram will be able to serve up the correct answer.

If you’re looking for additional takes on Wolfram Alpha, then I suggest you start with Wolfram Alpha, Google ‘rival’, launches or Wolfram Alpha: Wikipedia Killer? for some good reads.

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