Wolfram Alpha search set for imminent release

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New web tool dubbed as important as Google given public showcase.

Wolfram Alpha, to be made available from the middle of May 2009, is a free program designed by British-born physicist Stephen Wolfram.

He demonstrated the system at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Wolfram Alpha operates with the aim to answer questions directly, rather than display web pages in response to a search engine query.

The tool's technology is known as a 'computational knowledge engine', and the system presents answers by taking raw data from public and licensed databases, along with live feeds such as share prices and news.

Calculated search

The essential difference to search engines is that it calculates, rather than searches for, answers in a large database.

Users can look up simple facts such as the population of Manchester, or crunch several data sets together to produce new results such as a country's GDP.

Its factually-based search also extends to Wolfram Alpha being able to solve complex mathematical equations, plot scientific figures or chart natural events.

Perhaps owing to the scientific nature of the information, there is limited cultural information about pop stars and films.

"Our goal is to make expert knowledge accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime", said Dr Wolfram.

Nova Spivak, founder of the web tool Twine, has described Alpha as having the potential to be as important to the web as Google.

It will be interesting to see if SEO can be integrated with this new platform.

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