Wolfram Alpha Search. It’s no Google.

Reporting:  Joe Hunkins

Early hype suggesting that new search engine Wolfram Alpha could be a possible “Google Killer” quickly shifted to a focus on Wolfram’s new approach to search, which they call “computational”.     Although Technology-Report had early access to the program it is now open to all here:  http://www.wolframalpha.com

Although I’ve only spent a short time looking for inspiration at Wolfram Alpha, I’d have to say I could not find any answers where I felt Wolfram would beat out a Google search combined with some quick scans of the listed resources.     Wolfram’s promise was to deliver “the answer” to complicated questions but it seems to work well only for the kinds of information it appears they have already sliced and diced into packages, and I’m not clear it even beats out a Wikipedia entry when searching for data like states or countries where a packaged approach to the information is best.

A quick comparison of Wolfram’s answer to “New York” vs Google’s vs Wikipedia’s

In a case like this I’d argue Wikipedia is the clear winner, giving the user extensive information and links to more.   Google second with good lists, and Wolfram a distant third with very limited information given the wealth of data online.

For students creating notes (or papers to hand in!) Wolfram may provide some great tools with its unique organization schema, but for most internet researchers and browsers I think Google has nothing to worry about here at all.

5 thoughts on “Wolfram Alpha Search. It’s no Google.

  1. As much as Wolfram Alpha might not (or not yet) be a “Google killer” (and who thought that up anyway, was it Wolfram? probably not…), I think such an angled dismissal is a little unfair at the moment. Think back to before Google got traction, and the way other search engines operated before that…

    If Wolfram can build on what he’s got, then it might not be a competitor to Google, but a very different type of information system. And the problem with challenging Google straight off the bat isn’t so much its actual search utility, but also the infrastructure underneath it. I’m keen to see what Wolfram Alpha can do, if only to push its own boundaries and limits, and those of others (including Google). Just writing it off seems a little short sighted.

  2. Alex have you found areas where Wolfram outperforms normal search? I expected “rich” answers but they were always thinner and than Wikipedia. In fact I was reminded of Powerset’s rather pitiful debut where it seemed they’d mostly just indexed Wikipedia such that you could ask questions and find wikipedia’s answers. That’s OK, but it’s a far cry from the robust semantic seach promised by both Wolfram and Powerset.

  3. Technically, WA “outperforms” Google on successful subject searches because it presents you with data immediately, as opposed to a collection of links, one of which you then pick.

    How rich that data is? Well, like I said, it’s pretty early days, but there’s plenty of potential. And while Wikipedia provides much more info now, Wikipedia is 8 years old (Google is 10 years old). There’s some way to go, but perhaps it is robust to the extent of the data currently in use.

    Just for ease of reference: “Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. Wolfram|Alpha, as it exists today, is just the beginning….”


    If we’re going to expect a “Google Killer” to actually happen, whenever that may be, it isn’t going to happen with any product at its launch.

  4. Pingback: Wikipedia Wolfram Alpha Google | World News

  5. Thanks Alex – interesting perspective and I certainly agree Wolfram deserves a full long run before it’s written off. However in the new fast paced web world I find you need to trust your instincts to avoid spending a lot of time on applications or sites that have low potential. I remain *very* skeptical that Wolfram will ever have >low% market share or significant advantages over Google.