There’s been so much hype about the would-be, Google-killer, computational knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha, that I’ve been reluctant to blog about it both because I’m not eager to contribute to the hype tsunami but also because I’m so overwhelmed by the number of articles I’ve bookmarked that it would take hours to sort them out into a coherent post.
In short, I think Wolfram Alpha is “Powerset meets semantic web.” What do I mean by that?
- Powerset was all about natural language for query formulation and the non-elimination of stopwords. They accused search engines of making you grunt in “pidgin English,” eventually leading to the creation of grunting pidgeons t-shirts.
- Semantic web is, in my opinion, all about the web as queryable database.
Wolfram Alpha is about putting those two ideas together. Wolfram Alpha will use the contents of the web to get you an answer — as opposed to a link that might contain an answer — to your question. (It is like MarkLogic in returning answers, not links.)
But with all the hype and pre-positioning, I think this thing is way more likely to be the next Cuil (total crater) or the next Powerset (expedient early $100M exit to Microsoft) than the next Google. Ironically, Google itself didn’t come with massive pre-hype. They just built up a great business.
So, rather than take a deep, heavy approach to Wolfram Alpha, I thought up a fun example instead. I asked Wolfram Alpha: how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
- Wake us when Wolfram Alpha can solve an actual problem (Valleywag)
- Wolfram Alpha: The next Google or the next Cuil (Mashable)
- Harvard posts the Wolfram Alpha video (TechCrunch)