WolframAlpha, a powerful new service that can answer a broad range of queries, has become one of the most anticipated Web products of the year. But its creator, Stephen Wolfram, wants to make something clear: Despite the online chatter comparing it to Google, his service is not intended to dethrone the king of search engines.
“I am not keen on the hype,” said Mr. Wolfram, a well-known scientist and entrepreneur and the founder of Wolfram Research, a company in Champaign, Ill., that has been quietly developing WolframAlpha.
Mr. Wolfram’s service does not search through Web pages, and it will not help with movie times or camera shopping. Instead it computes the answers to queries using enormous collections of data the company has amassed. It can quickly spit out facts like the average body mass index of a 40-year-old male, whether the Eiffel Tower is taller than Seattle’s Space Needle, and whether it is high tide in Miami right now.
WolframAlpha, which is expected to be available to the public at wolframalpha.com in the next week, is not a finished product. It is an early working version of a project that has been years in the making and will continue to evolve over years, if not decades. As such, there is much it cannot answer now.