Picking through Brin’s annual “Founders’ Letter” Digman found this interesting little aside:
I think it will soon be possible to have a search engine that “understands” more of the queries and documents than we do today. Others claim to have accomplished this, and Google’s systems have more smarts behind the curtains than may be apparent from the outside, but the field as a whole is still shy of where I would have expected it to be.
I tend to agree that this is a reference to Wolfram Alpha, but I don’t think it suggests Google is concerned about the start-up’s claims. On the contrary, it appears this one statement sends a number of strong messages:
- Google has technology “behind the curtains” that it’s not yet ready to reveal, but likely more powerful than being touted by Wolfram Alpha.
- Where Brin says “the field as a whole is still shy of where I would have expected it to be” you can translate that as him not being impressed by Wolfram Alpha’s offering.
- “It will soon be possible” that we’ll have “a search engine” that understands our search queries better. He’s not talking about a different search engine folks, he’s talking about Google.
History is littered with the rotten carcasses of search engines that have failed to challenge Google–both archaic dinosaurs such as Alta Vista, and young whippersnappers such as Cuil.
Does anyone really think that Wolfram Alpha has what it takes to take on Google?