Wolfram Alpha a nice Google adjunct

Wolfram Alpha, the new search engine that aims to present actual answers to queries (vs. Google, with its lists of relevant Web pages), launched this weekend to remarkably good reviews. While no Google killer, the new search engine is easy and fun to use--and even includes some amusing Easter Eggs.

Early testers, like TechTree.com, report that while the search engine is fun and different, it's no Google killer. Rather, it's probably more of a good source for researchers and others just looking for quick answers to get them started. As TechTree says:

More often than not, if you are looking for something very comprehensive, it is likely that one page of Wolfram Alpha results will throw more bits of information than any other source you currently have. Simply put, this one is your best bet if you are on a mission to complete a research paper or even if you simply want accurate information for a college project.

But Techtree says Wolfram Alpha isn't a Google killer because it doesn't aim to be a regular search engine. It actually sets out to solve a different problem. While Google's aim is to help users navigate the Web and find specific sites and information more easily, Wolfram Alpha just seeks to provide the actual data to answer your questions. So if you're looking to find a range of opinions about Wolfram Alpha, use Google. But if you want to know how Wolfram Alpha stacks up against Google, Wolfram Alpha will return one information-laden page with just about everything you could want (including the fact that its page rank is 4,069 vs. Google's No. 1, and its average daily visitors of 480,000 vs. Google's 460 million).

Some early users aren't as easily swayed, however, and specifically decry Wolfram Alpha's lack of standards support. As Vnunet reports, some say the site needs to be more accessible, supporting standards like "XHTML, MathML, XML with Styleseets and SVG/Canvas Object for results rendering. Rendered text [and] images are so 1997."

Still, Wired reports that Wolfram Alpha not only works great, but it's chock full of "geeky, gadget-related easter eggs" that should endear it to early users. For example:

Try typing “88 mph” into the search box. Here’s what you’ll find: 88 mph = speed at which Marty McFly needed to drive the Delorean DMC-12 in order to time travel. Want more? Try Flux Capacitor. It turns out that the power needed by Doc Brown’s invention is just 1/10th the power required to shift the space shuttle off the launch pad.

For the most part, Wolfram Alpha delivers results, both interesting and fast. While it doesn't act like Google and help you find relevant sites and pages posted to the Internet, it does answer concrete questions fast and accurately, and provide a rich list of sources to back up its answers. There's probably room for both approaches when it comes to searching the Internet.

What do you think? Will Wolfram Alpha burn brightly and then die a slow cold death like Cuil -- or will it find its own beyond-Google niche? Post a comment and let us know.

* * *

Like this post? Visit the Google Subnet home page for more news, blogs and podcasts.

More blog posts from Google Subnet:

Sign up for the weekly Google newsletter. (Click on News/Google News Alert.)

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.