Wolfram/Alpha launches: Can it break out of niche-ville?

Wolfram/Alpha has launched, but after a few searches it's an open question whether the search engine can break out of a narrow niche for select users. For many searches Wolfram/Alpha just "isn't sure what to do with your input.

Wolfram/Alpha has launched, but after a few searches it's an open question whether the search engine can break out of a narrow niche for select users. For many searches Wolfram/Alpha just "isn't sure what to do with your input."

Wolfram/Alpha got rolling over the weekend in preparation for a full scale launch on Monday (Techmeme). If Wolfram/Alpha is really supposed to understand me it will need to figure out terms like "Delaware tax system" and not try to steer me to geography or city data.

Overall, Wolfram/Alpha reads like an encyclopedia. It's handy at times, but the big question is whether the search engine can break out of niche-ville. Sure, geeks like the presentation and it Wolfram/Alpha can be handy for deep dives, but the average person will want some sort of results every time. In that regard, Wolfram/Alpha may be a disappointment.

My first few searches and my initial take.

The error page right out of the gate:

If you try "Microsoft" you mostly get stock information. On Saturday am stocks are the last thing I want to think about---especially since I think about them all week:

 

And a lot of searches just don't work well. A search on Wilmington Blue Rocks, a minor league team I used to cover way back when, gives me nothing. But if I want history on Wilmington or Delaware or the color Blue I'm set. I was just curious to see if Wolfram/Alpha would know what affiliation the Blue Rocks when the team launched. Or give me some minor league baseball (best deal in town by the way) information. 

It will steer you to geographic information.

The average bear could get frustrated quickly.

So let's cut Wolfram/Alpha a break. It's not the minor league baseball type. You'd think it may have heard something about NFL Films.

No luck, the search wasn't sure what to do with my input and gave me nothing more to explore. Wolfram/Alpha does know the NFL and defaults to the New England Patriots (spare me).

When I get to my Philadelphia Eagles I find standings and records dating back to 1970. Unfortunately, I'll have to go back to 1960 to find anything resembling a world championship. Google gets me that info instantly. 

Some things are handy. For instance, Wolfram/Alpha will tell you all you need to know about a domain. It does cite Alexa data (not that anyone else does). That information is useful, but perhaps not for your mother.

 

Overall, Wolfram/Alpha is interesting, but it needs to learn a lot more. It screams niche search for now.  

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