Wolfram Alpha will complement not replace Google

In a few weeks, Stephen Wolfram will launch his latest creation, the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine. The new system may not replace Google, but it's definitely an evolutionary step in Internet search.

In a few weeks, Stephen Wolfram will launch his latest creation, the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine. In March, Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks, talked with Wolfram about the new system and described how it's difference from Google.

"It doesn't simply return documents that (might) contain the answers, like Google does, and it isn't just a giant database of knowledge, like the Wikipedia. It doesn't simply parse natural language and then use that to retrieve documents, like Powerset, for example.

Instead, Wolfram Alpha actually computes the answers to a wide range of questions — like questions that have factual answers such as "What is the location of Timbuktu?" or "How many protons are in a hydrogen atom?," "What was the average rainfall in Boston last year?," "What is the 307th digit of Pi?," or "what would 80/20 vision look like?"

CNET's Rafe Needleman and Stephen Shankland have been testing a preview version of the Wolfram Research site. In this video, Needleman got a tour of the new search gets a look at the eagerly anticipated new computational search engine, Wolfram Alpha. Is it a Google killer? No, but it has the potential to change the way we view at data on the Web.

If you're looking for a great sushi restaurant or where to catch the latest summer blockbuster, Google is your best bet. But as Needleman and Shankland demonstrate, if you want to know when the next full moon will occur in Buenos Aires or when the GeoEye-1 satellite will pass over your house, Wolfram Alpha will provide the answer in stunning graphical detail.

If you'd like to see more of what Wolfram Alpha can do, check out Shankland's screenshot gallery and Needleman's video. You can also read the pair's CNET News article, "Wolfram Alpha shows data in a way Google can't," for a detailed description of their experiences and impressions.


Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox