For those of you not yet in the know there is a new search engine on the Internet recently. Well to be precise its not really a search engine. Wolfram Alpha describes itself as a “Computational Knowledge Engine”There have been quite a few different opinions floating about concerning what the site is and isn’t I’ll let you in on some of my thoughts.
A little decoder ring physics and you can come to understand that this websites database is driven entirely by data. Comparative data, general information, cold hard stats. Any way you slice it this site is not meant to erase or supplant Google. Its meant to be an entity of its own.
Google weighs blogs and frequently updated content more than data in its own right. Wikipedia and other fact sources only trend higher when more people link to them as authoritative sources. In most cases this is perfectly fine but Wolfram:Alpha has chosen to cut out the middle man and simply trade in only data.
I’ve heard two different critiques of the service which i think are misplaced. The first is a seemingly simple slam on the name. People have complained that it does not lend itself to “verbing” ie you can worlfram somthing without sounding ridiculous. I personally like that, it shifts the site away from a pass-through for information and more towards a source. Its a noun, you found it here, you didn’t use it to find it elsewhere. That simple shift in terminology should make people take it as a more authoritative source of information in the long run. Plus it sounds like some sort of mission codeword from GI Joe, which is also cool.
The second complaint levied against the site by the shallow is that its not cool. I don’t want my calculator to be cool I don’t need my knowledge engine to be so either. It needs to be functional, and correct. The data that the engine currently spits out is probably going to take some skewing and manipulating to be more informative. Right off the bat the only other Computational knowledge engine like entity available to users is DBpedia, which si a collection of data sets gleaned from wikipedia. Wolfram Alpha wins on usability and concise data-streams, comparative studies, and publicity.
So there you go in a nutshell thats the new kid on the block.