Wolfram Alpha – This Ain’t Your Mama’s Search Engine

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by on 05-18-2009

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I had the chance to toy around with Wolfram Alpha today following its launch and I can say that this is definitely a different breed of search engine.  It’s not cutesy like Google, it’s not as “user friendly” if you will, and it’s surely not something the general public is going to run to.  It is however a tool that can be greatly useful, assuming you know how to find what you’re looking for.

One of the main things I was noticing today both personally and through chatter on twitter, is that a lot of people weren’t finding the results they had hoped for while running various queries through the new search engine.  The reason for this is simple; we’ve all been trained to use search engines like Google, Live, Yahoo, and even Ask.  Most people are used to typing in a keyword or 20 and hoping to be given a list of results that are “relevant”.  With Wolfram Alpha, this doesn’t work.  Sure, one out of twenty random queries you type in may get you a result, but that’s not the purpose of Wolfram Alpha.

Wolfram Alpha is exactly what it says it is; a computational knowledge engine.  Its job isn’t to find you a local pizza joint, or online porn (However if you type in a few pornographic terms I did find it will give you some amusing data).  Instead it’s designed to compute and compare data in a way that most search engines can’t.  Run a search for ‘google.com live.com yahoo.com’ in any other search engine and you’ll get thousands of pages with random information.  Run that same query in Wolfram Alpha and you’ll get a comparison of the three search engines with data on when they went live, where they are located, how many employees each search engine has, and a lot more.

Wolfram Alpha is the information geek’s search engine.  If you crave data, computation, and the like, THIS is your search engine.  When running queries you need to think in this mindset.  If you look for pizza it’s going to give you information about pizza, not a list of your local pizza restaurants.  If you look up Starbucks it won’t tell you where to find a quick latte, but it will tell you how Starbucks is doing in the stock market.

Don’t use Wolfram Alpha the way you would use Google, Live, Yahoo, or any other search engine, you’ll only be irritated and disappointed.

Still Not Sure What To Do With Wolfram Alpha?

I think this twitter user shares your frustration:

A Twitter users response to Wolfram Alpha.

However, if you need something to tide you over check out Mashable’s post with the Top 10 Wolfram Alpha easter eggs.  Be sure to check out the comments because users are finding even more.  Twitter user NMcCoy also mentioned that Wolfram Alpha does a great job at helping with statistics homework if needed.  If that still doesn’t tide you over, go here.

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