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MAY 19, 2009   

Better than Google?

Wolfram|Alpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone...to collect and curate all objective data...make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything...provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

Wolfram Alpha screenshotIt's a pretty ambitious goal for the latest challenger to Google as the way we interact with the Web. Whether that goal is even in sight on the horizon depends on the kind of questions you ask. Based on my limited testing over the past two days, I'd say if you are interested in scientific or mathematical questions you'll find Wolfram|Alpha useful.

So, if you care about the ratio of the height of Mt. Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, W|A delivers your answer: 3.233. Take that, Google!

But if you want answers about more general questions you may get frustrated as I did. I've been testing W|A as I do with every new search website, asking questions about the topics I'm most interested in.

Screenshot for question about value of associates degreeEntering "design education" or "interactive design" gave me the same result as the one you see here for my more complex question.

Since mathematical comparisons seem to be W|A's strong point, I modified my question to compare the value of an associate's degree with a bachelor's degree. Same result: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

In fairness to W|A, I tried similar searches on another new search engine, Mahalo.com. For all three of my test questions I got the answer We haven't created a page for "......." yet. Next I tried Powerset.com (Powerset's goal is to change the way people interact with technology by enabling computers to understand our language). I got plenty of links, but all to Wikipedia articles. Not sure if Powerset is any better than searching Wikipedia itself. SearchMe.com provided a small number of links for each question but their quality was only fair.

So I'd say that at this point Google is still the gold standard for finding information on the Web. The way that Wolfram|Alpha computes related information promises richer, more complex answers, but their database seems to lack information in many areas. You may not want to add it to your Bookmarks just yet, but maybe soon.


New ways to search: Maholo.com, Powerset.com - June 12, 2008
SearchMe visual search - June 10, 2008

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