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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wolfram Alpha, it's Knowledge Engine Not Search Engine


New technology term to add to the lexicon: "Knowledge Engine"

Very distinctly different from a search engine in that you are not intended to "Find" anything at all, then leave to go look at one of the results you found. The intent here is to learn something and gain knowledge by providing queries to the Wolfram "Knowledge Engine" then continuing to learn by refining the direction and scope of those queries until you come up with knowledge. Sometimes you learn things you didn't realize you wanted to know, but still find useful and relevant.

As I watched the demo video I found myself shaking my head in disbelief while I kept mouthing the word "Wow!" I'd be surprised if you don't have the same reaction, because it really is that fascinating and unbelievable. It is of limited use right now due to the factual data stored by Wolfram to compute the knowledge, but is nonetheless incredible.

Often the term "Google Killer" comes up when a new service or tool arises, but it usually turns out to not be a true competitor for a myriad of reasons. I've heard the term "Google Killer" applied to such odd warriors as Twitter or Facebook and now it's being applied by many here. That's foolish in this case as well - especially with the new features released by Google last week.

I've long been interested in the "Open" strategy and have been looking of late at the utility of adding external services to both my own and to client sites. So of course I stumbled into the Wolfram "Developer" section and started ruminating on how I might leverage the power of a knowledge engine and where it would be most useful on my own sites and those of others.

I'm an advocate of using specialists do what they do best and if that means AddThis for social media sharing, or Google Custom Search embedded on every page, I don't pretend that I can do better than those who specialize in those tasks. They are always going to offer evolving functionality and steady improvement that I won't have to bother with.

So it appears that Wolfram Alpha now offers an extensive API, widgets and other interface options with enterprise level partners. Since I've always been a fan of learning and knowledge, there are dozens of places I'd love to integrate Wolfram into my own sites. It seems that others might find that utility of value as well.

I don't see this as a Google Killer or even a competitor except for those who are using Google to gain knowledge, rather than discovery, as intended. When I want to learn something that Wolfram does well, I'll go there, when I want to find a web site, review, video or news, I'll go to a search engine. Maybe the next great innovation will be someone who comes up with a tool that solves the navigational search of those who type web addresses into the search box at Google. :)

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