Ben wrote:'the new google' were my words. And, as I said, its still early days.
Ah, well you're not the only one calling it the new Google, that is, saying it's going to threaten Google.
Wolfram Alpha was designed as an answer-engine, like Ask.com. Rather than having it be filled in manually, it is designed to be able to create answers to questions by ripping data from websites... But this is still basically just manual work, especially for data that doesn't change. Can it automatically generate new entries
? (That is, can it create answers to questions that weren't created by the programmer?) I doubt it.
So, say they create an entry for "What is the capital of Zimbabwe?" Stephen Wolfram or somebody at his company uses his software to basically rip the information from a certain part of Wikipedia (without attributing it, btw)... And then, there you have it: Somebody types "What is the capital of Zimbabwe?" and you get a bunch of scraped data from other sites. Answers.com already does this and Wolfram Alpha will, at best, make it look a bit neater by taking smaller slices rather than just the entire page, like Answers.com does.
So far, aside from being able to answer math and geography questions more quickly, Google and Wikipedia is still better.
An example...Who was the first king of Germany?
Wolfram Alpha: No results found
(because nobody has manually created an entry for the kings of Germany yet!)
Google: first king of Germany
provides a link to Wikipedia's article to "List of German monarchs". The second hit is to Wikipedia's article on Conrad III of Germany, the first king of Germany.
Most questions of even a moderate level of specificity are like this. Questions which are very
specific of course aren't there at all.
The tag-team of Google & Wikipedia contains answers to millions of potential questions... Stephen Wolfram would have to spend quite a bit of money to get the same amount of labor that has been put into Wikipedia. But the idea is to generate results through a new kind of automation? I don't really see what's new about Wolfram Alpha other than that it's better at understanding language logically.
Here's an article from the Register, making fun of it:http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/19/dziuba_wolfram/