Wolfram|Alpha vs. Google comparison

After reading Ericks’ article and comments on how Google will crush Wolfram|Alpha I thought it would be good to summmarise the discussion as there seem to be a lot of confusion what Wolfram|Alpha is/isn’t.

See the differences in the table below and feel free to adda comment if you think I missed anything.

At the same time I have to say I’m very excited about the Wolfram|Alpha project and I wish it had been available few years ago when I was still at the uni.

Title google logo wolfram|alpha logo
Search Engine Yes – google is indexing the web and returning list of pages No – it generates output by doing computations from its own internal knowledge base
Free Yes Yes, free for personal noncommercial use
Audience Mainstream audience, thanks to its simplicity Everyone, but given its complexity and it will attract mainly academic audience
Link with information source connects users with information source connects users with information
Database updates real-time dependent on the indexing frequency potentially real-time subject to manual data input and approval
Typical queries general interest, shopping scientific, academic
Business model Mainly Pay Per Click contextual ads Paid subscriptions with enhanced features for large-scale and commercial use and business partnerships
Fundations 1995: Based on a search engine called BackRub, BackRub operated on Stanford servers from 1995 1988: Wolfram|Alpha is built on the Wolfram Mathematica system, which has been in continual development since 1988
Languages 41 English only
Limitations authority based on PageRank, lack of common data structure Wolfram|Alpha can only know things that are known, and are somehow public. It only deals with facts, not opinions
Key strenghts Simplicity and a wide range of knowledge/data computation and mathematics
Data checks Mainly automated and managed by Google spam team. But, given its mainstream audience highly affected by spam Automated and manual, including exper review. Less likely to be targeted by spammers
Data upload No – data needs to be published on the web Yes – submission process sumilar to wikipedia
Private personal information Yes No. It contains only information that is considered public.
Adult content Yes, particularly when SafeSearch Filtering is off No. It has no adult images or narrative. It gives only factual answers to factual questions.

Many similarities but they are two completely different tools – targeting different audience.

I think Wolfram|Alpha has its right to exist as a niche and reliable tool for research and I’m sure there are businesses who will pay for additional features. What do you think?

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