Wolfram is releasing a new and interesting product tomorrow, Wolfram|Alpha. I think this could be an interesting and perhaps even important step forward for the availability of information on the internet.
Frequently, when I visit Google or Wikipedia, I have come to find an answer to a very specific question. I am then forced to look through the relevant articles looking for the one piece of information I really want. Alpha intends to fill this gap in the search industry by using a “computational knowledge engine” to answer queries directly rather than providing links to informational sites.
I am also hopeful that will help me answer my annoying and all to common question, “I am looking for a single word that means xxxx yyyy,” which I know exists but can’t quite think of right now.
This new technology is being touted as a rival for google, however I think the two technologies will complement each other quite well. Google is a search tool, it helps you find sites you are looking for on the internet, it is a great place to start when you don’t know, or know very little about what you are looking for. Alpha is an information tool, it helps you find a very specific piece of information on the internet, it is useful when you know what you are looking for. If they each focus on their own core competency they should both flourish.
While I suspect it may not start strong, I do suspect that such a technology will eventually find a place in my integrated search bar right next to google, wikipedia, and citizendium (which if you haven’t heard of is essentially a citable version of wikipedia).