Playing with the latest web tool

Wolfram Alpha tell us that their “long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone“.  That is quite a claim and is guaranteed to bring experimenters flocking.

I’ve had a look and I must admit that it is particularly good at some knowledge types.

  • A query about the weather in Dublin tells me that it’s 12 degrees, cloudy along with a depth of related information
  • A query to see how much the Euro is worth in other currencies tells me that I should get $1.37 US dollars, 88.06 British pence, and many other currencies besides. It also wonders if its interpretation of Euro is the one I intended. Apparently, a euro is also a marsupial animal
  • A search for Jean Luc Picard, alas, did not return the captain of the Starship Enterprise
  • A search for Rathmines returns one in Australia and not the Dublin suburb
  • A search for the price of fish returns something very strange indeed

At the moment, WA isn’t quite the sophisticated semantic web we’ve been waiting for. But it certainly is a start. It certainly has potential.

It’s biggest plus is the avoidance of individual web pages. It gets straight to the point very quickly avoiding searchs for individual web pages that the user then has to further click on to proceed their search. WA aggregates and computes what the user requires and simply presents it.  It takes the user a step closer to their information requirements.

As of now, Wolfram Alpha contains many trillions of elements and growing (from their faq page).  It doesnt trawl the web as traditional search engines do. Instead the data comes from its own knowledge base which, in turn, comes from official public or private websites but mostly from “more systematic primary sources”. We are not told what those might be.

Nonetheless, the possibilities are there for a true semantic mash-up web. The users gets direct answers to their queries and requirements, compiled on-the-fly from many useful and reliable sources. And isnt that what the web should be about anyhow?

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Posted on May 19, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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