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Searching for Answers Google Doesn’t Have

Wolfram Alpha Aims to Give You the Facts

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A new way of searching is on the way, and will come under the label Wolfram Alpha. This is a "knowledge engine" built by Stephen Wolfram, which allows users to ask questions and receive a single definitive answer rather than a page of results pointing to pages that may or may not have the answers they are looking for.

Wolfram Alpha 

Stephen WolframWolfram is a British physicist, mathematician and businessman known most for his computer algebra system Mathematica and his controversial book A New Kind of Science.

Unlike other answers sites, the answers from Wolfram Alpha will not be retrieved from a database, and unlike what search engines are trying to do, they will not be retrieved based on natural language. They will be retrieved through math and science. Wolfram explains on his blog:

Well, some people have thought the way forward must be to somehow automatically understand the natural language that exists on the web. Perhaps getting the web semantically tagged to make that easier.

But armed with Mathematica and NKS I realized there’s another way: explicitly implement methods and models, as algorithms, and explicitly curate all data so that it is immediately computable…

…I wasn’t at all sure it was going to work. But I’m happy to say that with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we’re actually managing to make it work.

Not exactly a Google-Killer…

Some present Wolfram Alpha as a possible Google-killer. Others don’t, but think its importance could equal that of Google, and suggest that Google could potentially be interested in acquiring it.

Personally, I have to wonder if this will affect Wikipedia use more than Google use. From the sound of it, it won’t eliminate the need for Wikipedia either, as that site will still be of use for collections of information, biographies, etc. But for those looking for direct facts, it could put a dent in Wikipedia’s queries – if it catches on.

Can Users Trust Computers for Accuracy?

As with Wikipedia, the trust factor comes into play. Most people know they can’t trust everything they read on the Internet, and if Wolfram Alpha presents users with a single definitive answer to their question, there is a good chance many will still turn to Google to doublecheck accuracy. At least with a list of results, you can check different sources and make your own conclusion as to what information is accurate.

Another reason that this won’t kill Google is that Google and other major search engines are already moving toward intent-based search results. Plus, searchers are using longer queries and revising them to find the answers they are looking for (this is one reason why FAQ pages are encouraged for sites). Even searching for answers to questions, I believe people will be reluctant to part with the familiarity of the Google brand, which dominates so much of the search market share.

Wolfram says the project will never be finished, but he’s almost ready to launch the first part of it. Wolfram Alpha will go live in May. Then we can see what the hype’s really all about.

Searching for Answers Google Doesn’t Have
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  • http://www.avanta.co.uk/UK/meeting-rooms Meeting room

    Wolfram is a genius, if you don

    • Chris Crum

      I’m sure Wolfram is brilliant, but I agree, I think the product would see far greater use with Google behind it.

      I don’t want to judge the project until it’s out there. I’m just trying to put this into a real-world perspective. I’m willing to bet the majority of people have no idea who he is (unfortunately mathematicians don’t get the exposure of your Paris Hiltons and your Hannah Montanas), and it is human nature to be skeptical. Even if Wolfram is 100% accurate all the time (which would be awesome), the real question is whether or not people will be able to accept the answers they are given without Googling for second opinions.

  • http://www.ericmaas.com Eric

    I am not sure if it is a google killer, but the idea is great, and would be killer if Google was in on this.

  • http://www.rakebackriches.com/ Rakeback

    Wolfram is very famous for the quality of his mathematical work. No doubt his algorithmic contribution will be profound. Commercially speaking, it will not be a contender in the current market place, but it will certainly help reshape the way search engines operate.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk Adam

    Although with Google behind it it would gain maore, I think it’s important to maintain some level of competition otherwise ideas like will never come about. Google’s not had to worry about competition for a long time for something to keep it on its toes.

  • http://www.eztrip.com/ Hotels

    The problem with this assumption is that answers don’t always arrive based on math. The biggest issue here is how quantum mechanics relates to information and energy flow. It is theoretically impossible to get an accurate answer every time, except for on very simple questions.

  • http://www.dulyon.com/ Loose Gemstones

    I don’t see how this is possible. Math is a byproduct, and supports the matrix of things, but cannot calculate certainty of things.

  • http://www.ascentent.com ENT Services

    This looks like the driving force behind Artificial Intelligence engines. Interesting development by Wolfram.

  • http://www.internet-empire.com Seo Singapore

    This searcg engine will be beneficial Scientists and Mathematicians.

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