To read the author’s pre-released blog post (written March 5, 2009), Wolfram Alpha, the new search engine due out in May 2009, is a kind of combination of the Theory of Everything meets Enstein’s Google. The author, Stephen Wolfram, is the father of two other ambitious projects, Mathematica and A New Kind of Science and has a flair for the big ideas. Wolfram clearly has a high regard for himself, plastering his name over each of the inventions or concepts and stating in his book, NKS, “I have come to view [my discovery] as one of the more important single discoveries in the whole history of theoretical science.” If you are mathematically inclined, you can download his NKS book for free here. On the other hand, from what I have read, Mathematica is clearly highly regarded — some say the reference — in its domain. If nothing else, for the layman, you might enjoy some of the images that you can find on his Mathematica Graphics Gallery (a sample below).
So, what is interesting about Wolfram Alpha? It may yet be the next Google, or it may fizzle out much like NKS. If it were truly the next Google, I personally would not have hesitated to name it Wolfram.com rather than WolframAlpha.com… Almost seems like he is hedging his bets. All the same, the very concept of Wolfram Alpha is fascinating, so I can only applaud the size of the ambition. Based on the purposefully sketchy information available, it would seem that WolframAlpha goes a step [or two] beyond semantic tagging, to use the vast array of information and intelligence available on the Internet to create the optimal solution for a particular query. In his own words, the idea is that “one would be able to ask a computer any factual question, and have it compute the answer.” Rather than focus on the search criteria, the Wolfram Alpha engine uses complex algorithms, heuristics, linguistic discovery and curation to compute and/or perfect the answer, seeking to improve on the existing information. My description of what Wolfram is attempting to do: Take a 3rd dimension view of all the 2D information, outstretched on a worldwide web, and theoretically makes it organic and artificially intelligent.
Anyway, watch this [virtual] space as they say.