One year after the release of Wolfram Alpha, the hoopla has come and gone. It just seems as if the world wasn't quite ready for Wolfram to come and grab the spotlight away from Google. Heavily weighted toward computational queries, with blended tendency of manipulating its data sets as opposed to simply retrieving what is actually available on the Web means its results can be more authoritative than a list of links.
As a result, Wolfram has "sold out" in a way, as it plans to make over its home page, and will start adding data for more pop-culture-friendly information such as sports, music, health information, and even its own take on local mapping. The problem is that Wolfram just doesn't know what it's for: as one pundit puts it, "Wolfram Alpha is like a cross between a research library, a graphing calculator, and a search engine."
Another challenge for Wolfram is that unlike Google, Wolfram expects to cash in on its enterprise: let's put it this way, it isn't doing this for knowledge dissemination. It plans to sell subscriptions to advanced users who want to do thing like blend their own custom data with Alpha's engine. The question remains: who's going to use it? Its business model is incumbent on a smaller, elite set of expert users. Google, on the other hand, has a business model that's shown a way to work based on use by just about everybody. There's a neatly aligned financial alliance between more users and revenue.
It's unfortunate as Wolfram Alpha came out with a great deal of anticipation and hope. Stephen Wolfram's presentation was very much as if he was uncovering new findings from the Shroud of Turin. Audience members anxiously waited their turns to throw questions which Wolfram easily captured with his new search engine. Unfortunately, for the past year, it appears as if much has come up short.