Another next-generation search engine launches. It looks more differentiated than the much-ado-about-nothing known as Cuil, but that’s not saying much.
Our prediction: Wolfram Alpha (terrible name) will see a nice spike in traffic for a few days, then it will disappear unnoticed along with all the other “next-generation” search engines.
Because search isn’t broken. It can be improved, yes, and companies like Wolfram Alpha will show Google how to improve it. But no search engine we’ve seen, including this one, comes close to making the quantum leap in performance required to get real volumes of Internet users to switch.
Wolfram|Alpha Officially Launches
World’s First Computational Knowledge Engine Is One of the Most
Eagerly Anticipated International Product Launches of 2009
Champaign, IL, May 18, 2009–Wolfram Alpha LLC today announced
the general availability of Wolfram|Alpha, the world’s first
computational knowledge engine, offered for free on the web.
Wolfram|Alpha draws on scientist Stephen Wolfram’s groundbreaking
work on Mathematica, the world’s leading technical computing
software platform, and on the discoveries he published in his
paradigm-shifting book, “A New Kind of Science.” Over 200,000
people from throughout the world have contacted the company to
learn more about Wolfram|Alpha since news of the service first
surfaced broadly in March.
The long-term goal of Wolfram|Alpha is to make all systematic
knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone.
Wolfram|Alpha draws on multiple terabytes of curated data and
synthesizes it into entirely new combinations and presentations.
The service answers questions, solves equations, cross-references
data types, projects future behaviours, and more. Wolfram|Alpha’s
examples pages and gallery show a few of the many uses of this
“50 years ago,” said Stephen Wolfram, the founder and CEO of
Wolfram Research, “when computers were young, people assumed that
they’d be able to ask a computer any factual question, and have
it compute the answer. I’m happy to say that we’ve successfully
built a system that delivers knowledge from a simple input field,
giving access to a huge system, with trillions of pieces of
curated data and millions of lines of algorithms. Wolfram|Alpha
signals a new paradigm for using computers and the web.”
Four Pillars of Wolfram|Alpha
Wolfram|Alpha is made up of four main “pillars” or components:
* Curated Data. Wolfram|Alpha contains terabytes of factual data
covering a wide range of fields. Teams of subject-matter experts
and researchers collect and curate data, transforming it into
computable forms that can be understood and operated on by
* Dynamic Computation. When Wolfram|Alpha receives a user query,
it extracts the relevant facts from its stored computable data
and then applies a collection of tens of thousands of algorithms,
creating and synthesizing new relevant knowledge.
* Intuitive Language Understanding. To allow Wolfram|Alpha to
understand inputs entered in everyday language, its developers
examine the ways people express ideas within fields and subject
matters and continually refine algorithms that automatically
recognise these patterns.
* Computational Aesthetics. Wolfram|Alpha also represents a new
approach to user-interface design. The service takes user inputs
and builds a customised page of clearly and usefully presented
Wolfram|Alpha has been entirely developed and deployed using
Wolfram Research Inc’s Mathematica technology. Wolfram|Alpha
contains nearly six million lines of Mathematica code, authored
and maintained in Wolfram Workbench. In its launch configuration,
Wolfram|Alpha is running Mathematica on about 10,000 processor
cores distributed among five colocation facilities, using
gridMathematica-based parallelism. And every query that comes
into the system is served with webMathematica.
“Wolfram|Alpha is an extremely powerful way of harnessing the
world’s knowledge. Now, anyone with web access can tap into that
knowledge to find relevant information and discover new
insights,” said Theodore grey, co-founder of Wolfram Research.
The Wolfram|Alpha launch process has been broadcast live on
Justin.tv and documented on the Wolfram|Alpha blog and on its
Twitter and Facebook accounts. The site first went live for
testing on Friday, May 15, 2009, and has been rigorously tested
and further performance-tuned since then in preparation for
today’s official launch.
Key Partnerships with Dell, Inc. and R Systems NA, inc.
Powering Wolfram|Alpha’s computational knowledge engine required
highly-specialised servers and compute clusters. An innovative
approach helped speed deployment, lower total cost of ownership,
and reduce the environmental impact of the system’s compute
Dell’s Data centre Solutions (DCS) Division worked with R Systems
NA, inc., Wolfram|Alpha’s data-centre hosting partner, to
identify the right customised cloud computing solution and tune
it to R Systems’ facility, operating processes, and application
“Since Dell created DCS in 2007, we have championed the early
adopters at the leading edge of areas like search, service
provider, and cloud-computing spaces. Today’s launch of
Wolfram|Alpha is significant for both the technology community
and to Dell,” said Forrest Norrod, vice president and general
manager of Dell’s Data centre Solutions Division. “It is
incredible to see the outcome of Dell’s strategy to work with
customers to design and build an infrastructure fully optimised
for their computing environments.”
Brian Kucic, CEO of R Systems, said, “Working with Wolfram Alpha
LLC on a project like Wolfram|Alpha is exactly what we envisioned
when we started our company. Being engaged with high-performance
computing on a large scale and offering world-class resources to
researchers is our mission. As Wolfram|Alpha expands, we’re
confident that our resources will satisfy its users and their
For more information on Wolfram|Alpha, visit its Media Resources
About Wolfram Alpha LLC
Wolfram Alpha LLC is a Wolfram Research company.
Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic
knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. The
company aims to collect and curate all objective data; implement
every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to
compute whatever can be computed about anything.
Wolfram|Alpha builds on the achievements of science and other
systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can
be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual
About Wolfram Research
Wolfram Research, Inc. is a powerhouse in technical innovation
and pursues a long-term vision to develop the science,
technology, and tools to make computation an ever-more-potent
force in today’s and tomorrow’s world.
With Mathematica 7, Wolfram Research delivered powerful new
capabilities, including image processing, parallel
high-performance computing, and new on-demand data–making the
software more relevant than ever to everyone from leading
researchers to students and other users. Wolfram Research
sponsors the world’s largest free network of technical
information websites, including MathWorld–the #1 website devoted
to mathematics–and the Wolfram Demonstrations Project.
Wolfram Research was founded in 1987 by Stephen Wolfram, who
continues to lead the company today. The company is headquartered
in the United States, with offices in Europe and Asia. For more
information, visit http://www.wolfram.com.
About Stephen Wolfram
Stephen Wolfram is a distinguished scientist, inventor, author,
and business leader. He is the creator of Mathematica, the author
of “A New Kind of Science,” the creator of Wolfram|Alpha, and the
founder and CEO of Wolfram Research.
Wolfram has been president and CEO of Wolfram Research since its
founding in 1987. In addition to his business leadership, Wolfram
is deeply involved in the development of the company’s
technology, and continues to be personally responsible for
overseeing all aspects of the functional design of the core
Mathematica system as well as Wolfram|Alpha.
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