News reports were tantalizing — the new search engine could be a Google killer. The Times read:
A revolutionary new search engine that computes answers rather than pointing to websites will be launched officially today amid heated talk that it could challenge the might of Google.
Other news outlets, like the LA Times, were also gushing.
Does Wolfram Alpha live up to the hype?
Alas, not really.
For a limited number of things, it worked really well. “New York City” brought up population, location, and weather. “How many miles is 10 kilometers?” worked great. (On the other hand, “how many miles is a 10-k?” didn’t work at all.) Entering any company name brings up a relatively detailed stock chart.
On the other hand, “Barack Obama” brings up — um, the President’s birth date. And the fact that he’s President. That’s all. Kind of weak; one would expect perhaps inauguration date and political party. Okay, it’s a computing engine, how about a simple language computation? “Green in Spanish” gives the answer, “No,” after deciding that I was asking whether the city of Green, Oregon is located in Spain. (I’m not kidding.)
A whole array of other garden-variety inquiries brought up nothing at all, including “Daniel Solove,” “Alfred Brophy,” and “Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.”
Maybe in the far, far future, WA will catch up to or replace Google. Right now, I don’t think that Google needs to worry much about the new Google killer.