WolframAlpha: New Way to Search

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WolframAlpha is now up and running! Developed by Wolfram Research headed by Stephen Wolfram, it was launched last May 15. Here’s a video introduction of it by Wolfram.

WolframAlpha

WolframAlpha

It may look as if it’s just another search engine with a search box and an equal sign that functions as the search command button, but it differs in how it renders results. WolframAlpha generates output by doing computations from its own internal knowledge base, instead of searching the web and returning links. It’s not like Google, Yahoo, and other search engines that display links to websites that may contain the answer you’re looking for and it’s not a database of knowledge like Wikipedia. Wolfram calls it a computational knowledge engine.

According to Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks:

Wolfram Alpha is a system for computing the answers to questions. To accomplish this it uses built-in models of fields of knowledge, complete with data and algorithms, that represent real-world knowledge.

For example, it contains formal models of much of what we know about science — massive amounts of data about various physical laws and properties, as well as data about the physical world.

Based on this you can ask it scientific questions and it can compute the answers for you. Even if it has not been programmed explicity to answer each question you might ask it.

But science is just one of the domains it knows about–it also knows about technology, geography, weather, cooking, business, travel, people, music, and more.

It also has a natural language interface for asking it questions. This interface allows you to ask questions in plain language, or even in various forms of abbreviated notation, and then provides detailed answers.

The vision seems to be to create a system which can do for formal knowledge (all the formally definable systems, heuristics, algorithms, rules, methods, theorems, and facts in the world) what search engines have done for informal knowledge (all the text and documents in various forms of media).

I don’t think WolframAlpha is threat to Google, nor it would replace the search engine. WolframAlpha works in a different way. It gives factual answers to questions that need data. It wouldn’t give you results on where to watch streaming videos or download freewares.

It may not be embraced by all. It may have glitches or flaws at the moment. But WolframAlpha is one major search breakthrough.

How I wish it was launched when I was in college. 🙂

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Yahoo! Closes GeoCities

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Yahoo! will be closing its GeoCities service later this year. When you go to the web hosting service’s website, you’ll be informed that they’ll no longer accept new accounts. Its existing users may still use the service until later this year and will be provided with details on how to save their data. Here’s the link to their help center.

GeoCities was founded by David Bohnett and John Rezner in late 1994. It was first called the Beverly Hills Internet (BHI). Originally, users will be selecting from list of  cities, which are named from real cities or regions, to place their web pages according to the content. So “Silicon Valley” contained pages related to computers while entertainment sites were placed in “Hollywood”. Follow this Wikipedia article for more about GeoCities.

I’ve used the service before as a web host when I was starting to learn web design. But now, I use it for file hosting. A lot of my downloadable documents and linked images are hosted by GeoCities. And that’s why I downloaded all my files and transferred them them to a new file hosting service. If you’re a GeoCities user, you just might have to start migrating your files. And for me, I’ll be updating my posts and point the links to my new file host.

Anyway, thank you GeoCities!

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Yahoo!

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Yahoo!

Yahoo!

It started out as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” then received a new name. The name Yahoo! supposedly stands for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”, but the founders insisted that they chose the name because they liked the term’s general definition from a book.

The word was invented by Jonathan Swift and used in his book Gulliver’s Travels. It represents a person who is repulsive in appearance and action and is barely human. Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang and David Filo selected the name because they considered themselves yahoos.

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