Wolframalpha.com is a computational knowledge base developed by Wolfram Research. Rather than providing a list of web pages in response to a search query, the site attempts to calculate an answer to the query and display it in the form of data. For example, a user can type the expression $250 + 15% and Wolframalpha will compute the result and display the result along with the calculation. Another example would be to enter the name of a city, and the site displays all of the information that it has about the city organized into categories such as location, population and nearby cities.
Wolframalpha is still in its early stages of development, but will provide excellent results in some areas, particularly mathematics, science, geography and history. The site already contains 10+ trillion pieces of data, and 10 million lines of code are used to implement the computational engine. Wolframalpha provides a better method for retrieving objective data from the web than a traditional search engine, since it is a database of actual information rather than a list of sites. The site has a good selection of examples for using the engine, and there is a community support forum to discuss topics related to the site.
Wolframalpha was launched by Champaign, IL-based Wolfram Research in May 2008. Steve Wolfram is the founder of Wolfram Research, whose major project to date has been a computational language called Mathematica. In fact, the Wolframalpha site is built using the Mathematica language. The site has undergone tremendous growth since launch, and currently serves over 1 million unique monthly visitors. The site has an Alexa page rank below the 2,000 mark.
Competition to Wolframalpha comes from sites such as Zanswerz (http://zanswerz.it.cx). Zanswerz is also a knowledge search engine which provides answers to questions rather than a list of web sites. The natural language ability of Zanswerz is more fully developed than Wolframalpha. On the other hand, Wolframalpha contains more data on mathematics and science. The Wolframalpha site has more users than Zanswerz, which has an Alexa page rank near the 200,000 mark.
The Wolframalpha site has a very Web 2.0 look and feel. The home page is dominated by a search bar for typing queries. The site is quite responsive, with search results being returned in a matter of seconds in most cases. Navigation is intuitive, with a top menu bar which includes links to the Wolframalpha community discussion board, the site’s blog and a section of FAQs about the site. There is no advertising displayed on the Wolframalpha site.
There is no registration to the Wolframalpha site available – users simply use the site.
Registration is not required to use the search engine or the community discussion board. There is also no premium membership offered by the site.
The Wolfram site is recommended to researchers, students, professionals and others who need convenient access to data on a variety of subjects. The site can solve most any mathematical formula, and data is available in a large number of categories including science, technology, history, geography and weather. The site is an excellent alternative to a search engine when looking for the answer to a question.