Wolfram Alpha, the name of a new super search engine that will debut later this month, doesn’t sound like a software application. It sounds like a New Age spiritual cult led by a German cyborg. It could be a kind of horror film directed by the ghost of Fritz Lang.
Plus “Wolfram” — the last name of the software’s creator, Stephen Wolfram — is a little hard to pronounce. Anyone with a smidgen of marketing sense would know that teenage and 20somethings are going to regard it askance. It’s a PhD dweeb name. New applications need a name that the dumbest guy in the room is cool with. They need to call it something like Vox or Drill or Vortex or Booby — a name that sounds like a rock band or a sound system.
No specific date has been given for the Wolfram Alpha launch, but it’s being described as an engine that will give you straight, specific intelligent answers instead of the usual catch-as-catch-can Google response when you ask any specific question, allegedly “in a way that the web has never managed before.”
The Independent‘s Andrew Johnson wrote yesterday that Wolfram Alpha “will take the first step towards what many consider to be the internet’s Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.
Wolfram “introduced the system at Harvard University last week. Although the system is still new, it has already produced massive interest and excitement among technology pundits and internet watchers. Computer experts believe the new search engine will be an evolutionary leap in the development of the internet.
“Nova Spivack, an internet and computer expert, said that Wolfram Alpha could prove just as important as Google. ‘It is really impressive and significant,’ he wrote. ‘In fact it may be as important for the web (and the world) as Google, but for a different purpose.
“Tom Simpson, of the blog Convergenceofeverything.com, said: ‘What are the wider implications exactly? A new paradigm for using computers and the web? Probably. Emerging artificial intelligence and a step towards a self-organizing internet? Possibly…I think this could be big.'”