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Wolfram|Alpha API to be released later today – O’Reilly Radar October 16, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities.
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We’ve just been told that the public API for Wolfram Alpha will be made available later today. The API documentation will be available at http://products.wolframalpha.com/api . […]

It’s hard to write much about an API that hasn’t appeared yet, but let me tell you why I think it’s important. Lots of writers have compared Alpha to Google, but I think that’s a mistake. it’s a data source, not a search engine, and that’s a significant difference. What matters with a data source is the ability to ask a question, get an answer back, and use it as easily as possible. An API minimizes the impedance mismatch: you can do computing directly with Alpha’s curated data.

But there’s another comparison that’s even more relevant: Twitter. What has made Twitter success isn’t so much the web application that lives at twitter.com. What has made Twitter valuable is the huge ecosystem that has grown up around that application: alternate clients for all sorts of platforms, web sites for searching, slicing, dicing, and remixing. Those have all been enabled by a simple and well-thought-out API for dealing with Twitter programmatically. The web isn’t about web pages; it’s about interactions between data sources.

Wolfram|Alpha gets this. The web site is just the down-payment; the real value is in the APis that will let developers build an application ecosystem around Alpha. As they put it: “The end-game [is] to drive new and innovative applications of our technology that we literally never could have imagined, driving computational knowledge into new domains.” A huge cache of data is interesting, but not enough: an API that allows you to explore that data, to remix that data with other data sources is what’s needed to enable creativity and discovery. What will the results look like? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. I’m excited.

via Wolfram|Alpha API to be released later today – O’Reilly Radar.


Wolfram|Alpha: Our First Impressions April 28, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities.
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The hype around Wolfram|Alpha, the next “Google killer” from the makers of Mathematica, has been building over the last few weeks. Today, we were lucky enough to attend a one-hour web demo with Stephen Wolfram, and from what we’ve seen, it definitely looks like it can live up to the hype – though, because it is so different from traditional search engines, it will definitely not be a “Google killer.” According to Stephen Wolfram, the goal of Alpha is to give everyone access to expert knowledge and the data that a specialist would be able to compute from this information. […]

Alpha, which will go live within the next few weeks, is quite different from Google and really doesn’t directly compete with it at all. Instead of searching the web for info, Alpha is built around a vast repository of curated data from public and licensed sources. Alpha then organizes and computes this knowledge with the help of sophisticated Natural Language Processing algorithms. Users can ask Alpha any kind of question, which can be constructed just like a Google search (think: “hurricane bob” or “carbon steel strength”). […]

Will it Kill Google?

No. Wolfram|Alpha will be an amazing product, but it’s quite different from Google and other search engines. Indeed, maybe it is actually wrong to call it a search engine at all (and Wolfram prefers to call it a “computational knowledge engine”). If you wanted to know what sights to see on your next trip to New York City, for example, Alpha, from what we’ve seen so for, will not be able to help you.

Alpha, however, will probably be a worthy challenger for Wikipedia and many textbooks and reference works. Instead of looking up basic encyclopedic information there, users can just go to Alpha instead, where they will get a direct answer to their question, as well as a nicely presented set of graphs and other info.

via Wolfram|Alpha: Our First Impressions – ReadWriteWeb.

Have a look also to a Live Webcast, where Stephen Wolfram give a demo about Wolfram|Alpha: Wolfram|Alpha demo