Wolfram Research, the same people that brought us Mathematica. A knowledge computation engine, instead of showing a list of websites and documents that might contain information on the search query this search engine will attempt to "understand" the query using natural language algorithms. After the engine is able to parse the query into something the machine can understand it will then try to directly compute the answer from structured datasets. This web service was announced just a few weeks ago and has gone live today. You can view their blog which contains information on the launch and other general knowledge of the idea of computational searching.
Do I believe this new "search engine" to be the google killer? NO, heck no. I do on the other hand believe that they will begin to take on a large following of researchers, students, and bloggers but not the average web-surfer. I do not see the use of this service for general web browsing, but if you find yourself in a research field this web service should be one of the tools in your online tool belt. Also if you just find yourself wanting to have a little fun and would like to learn something in the meantime, Wolfram|Alpha will help you kill sometime and also learn a thing or two.
Along with their example queries that you can find on the homepage, you might want to try some of the following:
* Your birthdate: I am currently 7623 days old, which means only 1 month and 17 days until I am 21!*
Weather on particular day: Take your birthdate, wedding, graduation date and place. Careful though, Wolfram|Alpha only has information back to a certain date, some of my queries could not find anything. But on my birthdate it was a great summer day in Rochester, NY with temperatures averaging in the upper 60s lower 70 peaking at 82 under a partly cloudy sky and above 58% humidity. Interesting I will have to ask my mom if she remembers that day as much as I do now ... LOL*
Your first name: My name, Trevor, is the 136th most common name for (2007) United States babies. 1 in 726 people (0.14%) share my name. Most of the 135,427 Trevor's alive today are between the ages of 7 and 19*
Your last name: This one surprised me. Mack is the 441st most popular last name (surname), there are currently 67,154 people with this name in the United States where 48% are of black ethnicity, 47% white, 1.74% mixed, 1.37% Mestizo, 0.6% Asian, and 0.56% Amerindian.*
Compare names: This one was a fun one. I quickly became appreciative that my name is Trevor and not as common as say James.*
Anything really. Contact me and let me know of the fun and interesting facts that you find and I will cite you on the site with your findings. If you do want to be cited please email your name and your search result. Thanks everyone.
Now some of you might just say that this system is just doing a 'like' compare on a very large dataset. This is not true and is not the reason for this service. This service was started as a proof of concept. Taking a random search query and translating that into natural language that a machine can then translate into relevant results found from different data sources. This engine does not have the scope of the whole internet, and frankly I don't see it ever being that large. Since this service actually gives relevant material (given a well thought out query) is because it only has access to data that is found to be useful and accurate. Yes that last query I mentioned was in fact on Google many years ago, the way that Google "calculated" that query was by just using a simple database lookup for the string "answer to life the universe and everything". I don't quite know how Wolfram|Alpha does the computation for this query, maybe it is done the same way, but everything else I tried gathered data and presented that data in a eye-pleasing manner.
I hope that you guys learn a lot from this new web service that has been made available. At times you might see a message saying that the system can't take your query this is do to it being a new system and all the current sockets are taken (like a busy signal on a telephone), just try again.\n\n
You have to have a great appreciation for their sense of humor. If you didn't know already this is quoting the 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.