New Search Service Has Techies Talking

A small start-up is causing a stir in the technology world with a highly anticipated new Internet-search service that some speculate could eventually challenge Google Inc.
Wolfram Research Inc., the firm behind the new software, known as Wolfram Alpha, prefers to call the technology a "computational knowledge engine," rather than a search engine. It doesn't search the Web for facts, as Google and most other search engines do.

Instead it mines limited databases compiled by the Wolfram Alpha team, then performs computations on those facts, yielding original data, rather than links to existing Web pages.

"We're trying to do something which is emulating the way that an expert would actually answer a question," says Stephen Wolfram, a physicist and founder of the Champagne, Ill., company.

Entering a city, for example, displays information such as its population, the local time, its location on a map, nearby cities and a link to its Wikipedia entry. The home page of Wolfram Alpha also invites visitors to type in mathematical problems or plain-English questions, in addition to search terms.

The service launched Friday, and the company continued to tweak the site over the weekend. By Monday afternoon, the site had received about 22.7 million queries from users, with three out of four labeled as returning satisfactory results, Mr. Wolfram said. "That means we have about a 5.7 million-item to-do list."

He is also sifting through some 22,500 feedback comments that the development team received.

Some reviewers have called Wolfram Alpha too technical for a lay audience, while others challenge the idea that it would compete with Google, since Wolfram Alpha seeks to answer questions on its site, rather than provide links to other sites.

Google declined to comment on Wolfram Alpha specifically but said in a statement: "We welcome competition that helps deliver useful information to users and expands user choice."

Wolfram Alpha and Google have different functions, Mr. Wolfram said. "It's now possible to take a decent chunk of the world's knowledge and make it computable. That's a different branch from what Google's doing."

Source:The Wall Street Journal

Write to Andrew LaVallee at

Copyright ©2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.



Copyright 2008-2009 Daily IT News | Contact Us