Posted March 10, 2009 3:35 pm by with 11 comments

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By David Lindop

It’s coming up to a year since I interviewed someone over at, a semantic, natural language based search engine. Now it seems another contender to the throne is making considerable noise in Britain where London-born scientist Stephen Wolfram believes he has set the foundation for a more intelligent search engine coined Wolfram|Alpha.


Wolfram aims to unveil the new search engine to the public in two months’ time, and has so far tantalised us with claims “that with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we’re actually managing to make [Wolfram|Alpha] work.”

If I appear sceptical it’s because I am. Cuil overinflated its pre-launch hype with claims of brilliance and revolution only to underwhelm us with a tepid and inadequate algorithm. Hakia certainly has the scientific credibility to promise utter turmoil to the SEO profession, but until now has rested on its laurels of academia. Will Wolfram|Alpha be any different?

So how does Wolfram|Alpha intend to surpass current search engines in terms of relevance? Or does the team believe it can offer something completely different and innovative?

Wolfram|Alpha is designed on the principle that current search engines rely too heavily on their vast databases of indexed pages; they simply make a best guess based on search criteria and serve up some (hopefully) relevant results.

By working with a search engine that understands natural language instead, Stephen Wolfram intends to closely understand people’s questions and answer them directly. He remarks that, “It provides extremely impressive and thorough questions asked in many different ways, and it computes answers—it doesn’t merely look them up in a big database.”

An important thing to consider is that it’s extremely unlikely that Google themselves haven’t been hacking together, for many years, a semantic algorithm with an understanding of linguistics and intent. I wish Stephen the very best of luck with Wolfram|Alpha but experience has taught the search industry not to hold its breath for search innovation. I sincerely hope he proves us wrong.

David Lindop is a professional search specialist working on SEO, linkbait & social media marketing at Setfire Media

  • In the words of the great Rod Tidwell…

    Only then will I believe the hype! 🙂

  • I agree! this looks to great to be real, hope it is.

  • PS3

    Would be a great news if it was true. I mean I get really frustrated, sometimes, with Google and have never been convinced to Yahoo! so a “new player” would be a great new to me.


  • I don’t care who rivals Google I’m hoping its anybody at this point. With 70% market share they’ve become too dominant in the online ad space market. Cuil was a joke too. Here’s to hoping and waiting someone does something noteworthy.

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  • Dean

    Ahhh, another wannabe destined for the search engine garbage heap. The absolute only thing that could threaten Google’s search engine dominance is if it is declared a monopoly, or maybe if Wolfram|Alpha were to come up with a cutesy wittle mascot like redzee.

    Note to Stephen Wolfram: I eagerly await your next announcement that you’ve come up with an iPhone killer.

  • How many have come and gone now? Wait and see I suppose, but the hope is alive.

    Dennis Edell’s last blog post..798 Views & 5 Comments – Are You Doing All You Can To Engage Them?

  • That is a great challenge for google, but i think for now google is still the best.

    Leanie Belle
    How To Earn Your First 100 Dollars Online

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  • I would also be very skeptical about this new search engine. I really wish them the best of luck but as you say, Cuil had huge exposure and has disappeared off the radar – according to Alexa their popularity has been consistently dropping since launch.

    Mark Thomas’s last blog post..PSP looking forward to a good 2009

  • It won't be easy to rival google. First of all, google has become a part of the world culture. New search engines need to prove too much to get attention.