Is this the future of search?
Last week, a friend of mine was telling me about all the cool stuff that happened on the day he was born - popular songs, notable deaths, the time the sun rose, etc. Pretty random stuff - so random that I wondered how he knew all of it. A birthday site perhaps?
Wolfgram|Alpha is a new type of search engine. It allows a user to compare different terms (for example, the stock price of Apple vs. Google), answers specific questions instantly (2 x 100, for example) and provides accurate answers to detailed questions. Unlike Google, it doesn't have a laundry list of potentially right places to find your answer, it just gives it to you in seconds.
Even though the site is still in beta and has recently launched, it's ambitious goal could help propel it ahead of popular engines in the future:
"Wolfram|Alpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim 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. Our goal is to build 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 queries."
What I love about this engine is that it has a defined objective that is appealing to the masses - become the resource to quickly answer factual queries. As a University student, it took me a long time to figure out "how" to search Google to find the articles and facts I was looking for. Should I phrase it like this or like that? A lot of the time, you don't get anywhere and waste hours scrolling through page after page with the hopes of finding what you're looking for.
Wolfram|Alpha gives users what they crave - correct answers, one click away.
Could Google replicate a model like this? Maybe. But I think that Wolfram|Alpha might have a jump start on them and in the world wide web, the place that users gravitate too first usually has a huge advantage on the competition.