British professor launches search engine to rival Google news
19 May 2009

Ever wished that you could tell the search engine what exactly you are looking for but could not find the precise words? A company founded by a world-renowned British physicist is launching a search engine to rival  Google,  which intuitively answers specific questions, rather than throwing up hundreds of links to websites.

Stephen WolframProfessor Stephen Wolfram, who is the brains behind Wolfram Alpha, explained that the website responds to a query by searching through databases and providing a direct answer, as well as illustrative graphs and tables. Wolfram adds that the 'computational knowledge engine' whittles down the facts and provides you with a single, precise answer. (See: Intelligent search engine Wolfram Alpha may redefine net search)

For instance, entering 'what is the capital of Venezuela' brings up the current answer (Caracas), but also a map of the area, and some facts about the population, and local time. On the other hand, entering the same search on Google gives you a mammoth 32,700,000 results.

Or in response to the question "what is the population of London?", Wolfram Alpha gives a single answer (7.421 million), whereas Google provides 28,500,500 website links.

Though the amazing engine offers users impressive precision compared with Google,  on the flip side, the site is unable to answer general questions. 

Although its search prowess could challenge the dominance of Google, the professor is adamant that Wolfram Alpha is not a search engine as such, but a "computational knowledge engine".

The website can answer questions on topics ranging from the population of a country at a given time and the distance between two places, to the age and date of birth of politicians, or the weather in a particular place.

Wolfram explained, "We can only answer questions that have literally been asked before. We can look things up, but we can't figure anything new out."

There will simply be one simple input field that gives access to a huge system, with trillions of pieces of curated data and millions of lines of algorithms, he explains.

Wolfram's team of human curators have equipped the search logic of wolfram Alpha with a wide array of mathematical equations, as well as 10 terabytes of data from thousands of sources: scientific journals, encyclopedias, government documents and any other source the company feels is credible. That generally doesn't include user-created websites.

Professor Wolfram founded Wolfram Research in Illinois in the US in 1987 to develop a computer algebra system called Mathematica.

The company now employs about 300 staff with Wolfram as its chief executive.

The service is free to use and there are plans for it to carry advertising. Plans are also in place to broaden and improve the service according to the website.

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British professor launches search engine to rival Google