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WolframAlpha Search Engine Seen As Important As Google

What makes the new knowledge engine different is the underlying technology that computes answers instead of looking them up in a huge database.

A new Web tool that provides direct answers to people's questions is scheduled to launch next month, and at least one expert says the new "knowledge engine" could one day prove as important as Google.

WolframAlpha, named after creator British-born physicist Stephen Wolfram, uses a technique called natural language processing to deliver answers, rather than a list of Web pages provided by Google and most other search engines.

What makes WolframAlpha different is the underlying technology that computes answers instead of looking them up in a huge database.

"In a nutshell, Wolfram and his team have built what he calls a 'computational knowledge engine' for the Web," Nova Spivak, founder of the information-gathering Web tool Twine, said in a recent blog post.

Spivak said the Wolfram tool "may be as important for the Web, and the world, as Google, but for a different purpose. It's not a 'Google killer.' It does something different. It's an answer engine rather than a search engine."

Wolfram recently demonstrated his creation at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The Web tool does more than just answer questions by also helping users discover more information and relationships about things. The answers provided include computed data or facts, plus relevant diagrams, graphs, and links to other related questions and sources.

Wolfram's company, Wolfram Research, operates the knowledge engine, which computes answers from the trillions of pieces of data gathered and managed by the team of experts responsible for the Web tool. The data is drawn from public and licensed database, along with live Web feeds, such as free stock prices and weather information.

Much of the data used today is scientific, but some limited cultural information about celebrities and movies has also been added.

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