>What is it?
It is a search engine for finding/manipulating factual data. Stephen Wolfram (creator) and his team call it “computational knowledge engine” for the web. Unlike Google it doesn’t only return a collection of links and information in other format. Wolfram actually goes a step further and tries to understand the question and then computes the answers to answer a wide range of questions that may arise from your original.
For example “What is the population of New Zealand”, pause for a while and think about the types of questions that can arise here. Wolfram does exactly this and then computes the answers and provides a detailed view. A good example of the intelligence of this system is: “GDP France/Italy”, the system is smart enough to figure that I have information about both these places and hence I can perform this mathematical operation. Wolfram doesn’t have a predefined database that has all the information like Google does, rather it goes a mile extra in trying to make sense of this information.
Another example from blog.wolfram.com:
“To give an amusing example, every school child has at one time or another written a report on the moon, and they probably included the wrong figure for how far the moon is from the earth. Why wrong? Because the distance from the earth to the moon is not constant: it changes by as much as a mile a minute. If you ask Wolfram|Alpha the distance to the moon, it tells you not only the conventionally quoted average distance, but also the actual distance right now, which can at times be well over ten thousand miles off the average. The actual distance is a figure that can be arrived at only by computation based on the moon’s known orbital parameters.”
In a nutshell a search engine for factual data with computational power. I have this information, what can I do with it.
Wolfram goes live sometime this month, exact date is unknown (I couldn’t find anything on Google.).