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Wolfram Alpha: The Next Google?

May 6, 2009

In the last few days, there has been a lot of buzz on the impending launch of Wolfram Alpha, a Web-based “computation engine,” with The Independent (UK) suggesting it could dethrone Google and  “change the internet for ever” and Danny Sullivan at searchengineland.com suggesting that this is like the “Holy Grail… the ability to look inside data sources that can’t easily be crawled and provide answers from them.”

High expectations, indeed!

Thankfully, Danny Talbot at MIT Technology Review has already published his experience, comparing Wolfram Alpha with Google.

His conclusion – that Wolfram Alpha is certainly comparable to Google – in some cases better, in some cases worse.  (Among other things, disambiguation looks to be an issue with Wolfram.)

He also points out a potential weakness – that for questions with no computable answer, Wolfram may not be able to help at all.  (In this category I would put a lot of the questions we as information professionals get – what is the market size of X?  What is the competitive landscape of Y?)

So ultimately it seems that this may be another tool for our toolbag to better educate our clients, and to better guide them towards efficient information finding.

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Here are some additional links for your investigatory pleasure:

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