Last week Wolfram Alpha launched, and I immediately started playing around with it. Like every other search engine Wolfram focuses on being able to take your input and try to return the data you’re looking for, but don’t expect it to grab results like those you find at Google. Instead Wolfram tries to read content from over a thousand different sites so that it can bring you the exact data you’re looking for… without having to click on any links.
If you enter in a city, for example, it will give you details like population, current time, current weather, and other details that might be useful. Or if you enter in a name it will return some stats that have been taken from the United States census:
Overall I’d have to say that I’m pretty impressed with the amount of data they’ve not only been able to collect, but have also been able to display in a friendly and readable format. The only thing I don’t like is that no results get returned when you try to enter what a typical user might be searching for at, let’s say, Google. If you’re not searching for something that’s math or science related there’s probably a good chance that Wolfram won’t be able to help you. I think what they need to do is grab some of the top Google results as well, and display them when Wolfram doesn’t have an answer. At least then the user wouldn’t come up empty handed. In their defense they do have a “search the web” box in the sidebar that will pull up the Google search results page for that query, but I don’t find that to be all that helpful.
What I’d really like to see come out of this is to have Google acquire them, and just integrate all of this technology directly into their search results. Google already does this for some things with what’s called OneBox results (for converting between units, finding the time in another city, etc…), but this would make it leaps and bounds more useful. Who knows… maybe this will end up getting acquired by one of the big companies out there.