18th June 2012
The general site launched more than two years ago with the aim of answering broad questions using structured data. Some commentators have suggested it could prove more powerful than Google by taking a more intelligent approach to coming up with answers rather than simply by sending out ‘spiders' to search and rank information and websites from the web.
The website introduces itself thus: "Wolfram|Alpha introduces a fundamentally new way to get knowledge and answers – not by searching the web, but by doing dynamic computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods".
The website and related apps use algorithms were developed by British physicist Stephen Wolfram over the last twenty years as part of his work on computational platform Mathematica – a name he was urged to adopt by Apple's Steve Jobs.
For an outside view and explanation of how the site works, here is Dr Peet Morris writing on Computer Weekly who takes you through the process.
The investment section of the site launched late last year, introduced here on the site's blog and is proving increasingly popular with some investors using it to tell when to buy and sell depending on certain trigger points.
It has certainly caused a stir on Reddit's investing site although not without some debate on subjects such as whether the system is skewed by not giving sufficient weight to dividend payments in its analysis of stocks.
Investment is not the only purpose of course. This report from Infodocket suggests it can be deployed to analyse data from Shakespeare's plays. However literary critics don't have to worry just yet, as providing the answer to what is the longest sentence in King Lear probably won't see them out of a job just yet.
The site's blog also suggests it can help make the necessary calorie calculations if you are aiming to lose weight.
Earlier this year, the firm launched Wolfram Alpha Pro as the BBC reports here allowing users to upload their own data sets to interact with the websites own data sets, which could provide many investors with another powerful too. This cost about £3.15 a month. The site says it is already profitable from software licensing and app sales.
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