New search engine to go live


Internet users are expected to get their first glance of a new type of search application which is likely to revolutionise the way people get information online today.

Unlike Google which retrieves webpages based on supplied keywords, Wolfram Alpha is, according to its developer Stephen Wolfram, a “computational knowledge engine" that promises to deliver specific answers to questions.

While it is not being officially launched until Monday, internet users will be able to try out the application for the first time this evening and to follow a live webcast showing the service going live.

The new service allows users to posit specific questions which it answers by retrieving the response from structured data. So for an example, if an individual wants to know what the population of Dublin was in 1932, how many internet users there are in Asia or how much the movie Godfather IIgrossed at the box-office, Wolfram Alpha will provide the answers. However, it won't be able to tell you whether Brian Cowen is a good Taoiseach or why Ireland is responsible for so many appalling boybands.

It could be considered as a hybrid between a standard search engine and an encyclopaedia.

Rather than replacing Google, the company behind the service believe it will complement it by serving as an additional source of information for internet users.

The online service has been developed by Stephen Wolfram who also developed Mathematica, a leading application for doing complex math on desktop computers.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s launch, John McLoone, a senior developer at Wolfham Research, told the Irish Times that the service is expected to handle about 175 million queries a day, or five billion per month.

"We have teams of curators who are charged with looking at various sources and putting together multiple datasets in order to compile accurate answers across a range of subjects,” he said.

“I believe that the service stands a good chance of joining the short-list of valued tools that people use to find out information.”