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Niche Search Engines Part 3: Wolfram|Alpha

Michael Bergbauer - September 22, 2014

The next entry in our series continues the theme of differentiation. Google’s mission (on the search engine front) is to organize the information on the web and make it readily accessible. Wolfram|Alpha has the same goal, but takes a completely different approach – providing users with results they can’t get anywhere else.

Wolfram|Alpha takes the concept of “mathematics as the language of the universe” and runs with it. In its quest to make the world’s knowledge computational, it uses advanced algorithms and dynamic computations to deliver answers to users. The results page for a Wolfram|Alpha query don’t usually feature links to websites. Rather, users are presented with nearly every possible data point that relates to their query.

This approach to search allows for some amazing possibilities. Wolfram|Alpha can help you see how much exercise you’re getting:
wolfram alpha exercise

Do some product research:

wolfram alpha product research


Or even settle bar bets by answering inane questions:
wolfram alpha woodchuck

The options seem limitless – everything from mortgage payment calculations to weather patterns. If the answer to your question involves numbers in any way, then Wolfram|Alpha probably knows the answer. Of course, Google can provide the same information … eventually. When you need data quickly (and the context to understand it) Wolfram|Alpha excels. But there are some shortcomings. While it can tell you the average price distribution for blenders based on 162 known models at both MSRP and sale price, it can’t actually tell you which one has the best reviews, comes with a warranty, or is the best bang for your buck. It may be a while before Wolfram|Alpha figures out how to “compute” that information (if ever), so Google is still very necessary for finding information on the web.

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