Wolfram Alpha Search Engine Turns 10: Remains Independent, Private, and Free of External Advertising

May 17, 2019 Off By readly

For more than three decades, Stephen Wolfram, a 59-year-old scientist, software designer and entrepreneur, has built software that has attracted an avid following among mathematicians and scientists. His Mathematica program for symbolic mathematical computation and its programming language, Wolfram Language, are favorites of the intelligentsia of the quant world in universities and corporations. Wolfram Alpha, one of his creations, is a unique search engine that does not forage the web, but culls its own painstakingly curated database to find answers. This week, the search engine turned 10. On the big occasion, Mr. Wolfram has shared the answer engine’s journey in a long essay.
An excerpt from the piece: It was a unique and surprising achievement when it first arrived, and over its first decade it’s become ever stronger and more unique. It’s found its way into more and more of the fabric of the computational world, both realizing some of the long-term aspirations of artificial intelligence, and defining new directions for what one can expect to be possible. Oh, and by now, a significant fraction of a billion people have used it. And we’ve been able to keep it private and independent, and its main website has stayed free and without external advertising. As the years have gone by, Wolfram Alpha has found its way into intelligent assistants like Siri, and now also Alexa. It’s become part of chatbots, tutoring systems, smart TVs, NASA websites, smart OCR apps, talking (toy) dinosaurs, smart contract oracles, and more. It’s been used by an immense range of people, for all sorts of purposes. Inventors have used it to figure out what might be possible. Leaders and policymakers have used it to make decisions. Professionals have used it to do their jobs every day. People around the world have used it to satisfy their curiosity about all sorts of peculiar things. And countless students have used it to solve problems, and learn. The footage of the launch of Alpha, from 10 years ago.

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