## Why Wolfram Alpha is a Game Changer

Watch this video to get an overview of Wolfram Alpha. What alpha does is make the web computable. How? by combining natural language queries, large public datasets and the Mathematica compute engine. Alpha brings all these pieces together to generate new information from data as opposed to slavishly returning the mob results that Google collects. This is information generation from first principles.

This is going to do to Google what Google did to Microsoft? Why?

- Wolfram is a private held company which will never be for sale. Stephen Wolfram is privately wealthy and isn’t interested in selling at any price, he wants to change the world. This eliminates Googles fist tack which is the early purchase of potential competitors.
- Mathematica is a heavily defended piece of Wolfram technology which is at the heart of the smarts running Alpha. Mathematica was first released in 1988 so they have been building and improving it for over 20 years. So don’t expect some open source project to reproduce its capabilities. As for MS and Google, well they have some catching up to do.
- The interface implicitly supports rendered output as opposed to textual results and combination of results
- The natural language interface will open it up to everyone
- The mathematica link means this will make real the software plus service mantra of Microsoft. BTW Microsoft is nowhere in this market.
- Add a REST API and suddenly you have taken much of what we do in cloud computing off the me nu
- Its a lot easier to clone Google search into alpha than it is to clone Wolfram Alpha into Google
- Its not just search, notice the bit where you can fill in form data to refine a calculation. Expect to see more of this including the ability to build complex computations with streaming real time results
- Crowd sourcing results will rapidly allow them to eliminate the less useful results

Questions:

- Whats the business model?
- Will it link with mathematica?
- Will they provide an API?
- How will Google and Microsoft react?
- Does Amazon have a part to play?

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It’s not clear what the Mathematica compute engine brings to the above party that a Map-Reduce framework is incapable of. Perhaps it’s just Wolfram’s golden hammer?

FooBarBazMay 14, 2009 at 1:39 pm

I suggest you take a look at mathematica. Map-Reduce requires an algorihm to make it useful. Mathematica has encoded most of the worlds knowledge of maths in an extensible engine.

jdrumgooleMay 14, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Anyone who’s used Mathematica for a bit knows how incredible it is. The difference with Wolfram is he commits to projects without compromise. As incredibly hard as it is, you can input mathematics in just about any notation (Mathematica, traditional maths, linear) and it understands perfectly – and then you can get the output in any format.

From what I’ve seen of using Powerset, the difference here (besides obviously the computational focus of alpha) is that Wolfram Research have tackled a very hard problem and been unrelenting in their efforts (after all, entering all that data takes time and energy) where as Powerset and the pseudo-natural-language search engines are _partially_ solving a hard problem, but not well enough.

Dave

David DoranMay 14, 2009 at 2:45 pm

[…] Bonus link: Joe Drumgoole has a (kinda) Top 10 on why this is a game changer in Silicon Valley answering the ‘meh..sure won’t Google just buy it or bury it anyway’. Fave line from the top “Alpha.. generates new information from data as opposed to slavishly returning the mob results that Google co….” […]

Clunky Flow » Wolfram Alpha: Daring to believeMay 14, 2009 at 3:40 pm

[…] Joe on Wolfram Alpha. […]

Fluffy Links - Monday 18th of May 2009 « Damien MulleyMay 18, 2009 at 5:02 am

Joe, Wolfram Alpha is great but keep in mind that does not index any web pages! It is a competitor to Wikipedia more than Google.

MerrillMay 18, 2009 at 8:39 am

I agree, but its not a a search engine, its a compute engine. In this respect it replicates neither wikipedia nor google. However Google should have more to fear than wikipedia as it most definitely “plays” in Google’s space more than Wikipedias.

jdrumgooleMay 18, 2009 at 9:24 am

Wolfram definitely looks good, as long as I want a highly powerful web-based scientific calculator. The issue with it is that the assumption seems to be that most people on the internet are looking for an answer to a question – what about the people who want to find websites that are highly relevant to the subject matter they are interested in? Not everyone wants an answer on a plate – some of us would just like some help finding the answer for ourselves.

Stephen MurphyMay 19, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Stephen,

Wolfram Alpha is an “and” function. You can use it and google to find your answer. If you want to calculate your own body mass index, Alpha is best, if you want to find out what is meant by body mass index google is best. Use of one does not preclude the other.

jdrumgooleMay 19, 2009 at 2:48 pm