Mike Harvey, at the Times of London, describes a new approach to web searches.
A revolutionary new search engine that computes answers rather than pointing to websites will be launched officially today amid heated talk that it could challenge the might of Google.
WolframAlpha, named after Stephen Wolfram, the British-born computer scientist and inventor behind the project, takes a query and uses computational power to crunch through huge databases.
The service can compute the distance between two cities, the population of a country at a specific date and the position of the Space Shuttle at a given moment. The user does not have to search through links provided by the engine; the answer comes immediately and, if appropriate, is accompanied by charts or graphs. …
The new service, available at wolframalpha.com, was previewed several months ago amid industry speculation that it could be a â€œGoogle killerâ€. Dr Wolfram, however, is at pains to point out that his brainchild is a â€œcomputational knowledge engineâ€, not a traditional search engine.