Start Your Engines Please, The Next Google ?

Move over Google, there’s a new race car driver on the track. Expected to launch in late May, 2009, Wolfram Alpha is one of the early leaders in the Web 3.0 race, and its super-charged search formula may be just the design for all future Google contenders to emulate. It’s the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram, founder and CEO of Wolfram Research who has been fine-tuning his well-oiled machine for almost three decades, in hopes of taking the pole position away from the Mario Andretti of all search engines.

But wait a minute...haven't we been down this road once before? Didn't a couple of ex-Googlites takeit upon themselves to introduce Cuil, a would-be competitor that crashed and burned almost as fast as it came out of the gate?

Can Google ever really be dethroned?

Perhaps to understand the viability of Wolfram Alpha becoming the next top search dog, we need to look at it in the context of the evolving Internet. Just in case you missed it, for the last decade, the web has taken on version numbers. As the last century came to a close, the dot-com crash ushered in the Web 1.0 era. A few years later, a man by the name of Dale Dougherty dreamt up something called Web 2.0, and the idea soon took on a life of its own as social media emerged to consume our everyday lives.

On a more serious note, Web 3.0 is being called the Semantic Web, a term coined by Tim Berners-Lee, the man (much to Al Gore's discredit) who was originally credited with inventing the (first) World Wide Web. In essence, the Semantic Web is a place where machines can absorb Web pages much as we humans read them. Its a place where search engines and software agents can better troll the Net to find what we're looking for. "It's a set of standards that turns the Web into one big database," says Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks, one of the leading voices of this new-age Internet.

While some think of Web 3.0 as an almost science-fiction artificial intelligence, the truth is that a lot of here-and-now technology can make Web applications smarter and more profitable. This includes everything from extracting insights from customer behaviors to serve them better, to breaking down corporate information silos spread throughout companies to make accessing business information more actionable.

Unlike Google, which automatically indexes billions of Web pages to answer users’ search queries, Wolfram Alpha will use sophisticated algorithms to actually understand user questions, and then will utilize the resources stored in its expert-curated database to offer up answers and relevant feedback. Wolfram Alpha, or the ‘computational knowledge engine’ is the natural progression of the present-day Internet as we know it, moving away from being about mass collaboration and more about displaying information to actually making sense of the content provided.

From a layman's perspective, the search term "long-tail" means searching for keywords that are longer than a standard 1-3 keyword search. Whenever an Internet user starts to qualify their search by adding more and more keywords, they limit the eventual searches that Google will be able to source. In the case of Wolfram Alpha, the result is very different from Google, which primarily points users in the direction of web pages. Wolfram Alpha, in contrast, will display information that it calculates by itself and will display it in useful formats, offering numerous options for users to dig deeper into the long-tail term subject matter. Its capabilities for slicing and dicing data will far outweigh anything any of us have seen from just a basic Google search.
Wolfram Alpha could become an amazing tool for searching Web data. It's smarter than Google in many ways, if not more comprehensive. It could become a worthwhile destination for anyone who needs a concrete answer with lots of options, providing the question can be asked in a way Wolram Alpha understands... which is still the big question mark that will take time to assess, after it rolls out this month.

However, its worth exploring to see indeed if Wolfram Alpha will overtake Google in the SuperHighway 500 Race, as we all become more comfortable driving in this new Web 3.0 world.
According to a recent NY Times" article, representatives for Google have declined to discuss WolframAlpha, which might be telling as to the seriousness of this competition. So for those of you who want to get a jump on what that new racetrack will look like, on May 19th to 20th, Mediabistro willhold its first Web 3.0 Conference in New York City at the New Yorker Hotel. The conference focuses on the Semantic Web, mashups, text and data analytics, and how they add real-world value for end users and businesses.

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