If Nova Spivack and Doug Lenat are positive with what they have seen from Wolfram Alpha, I am also close of being convinced that the internet community won´t be dissapointed by Alpha´s first release. Just remember, which hype was caused by Cuil´s PR-strategy of spreading news about their first release throughout the blogosphere, and scarcely anybody would talk about this engine anymore.
After all what I have read about Wolfram Alpha, one thing obviously can be stated: Wolfram Alpha will be a perfect addition to traditional search engines like Google, but will never replace it. For example: In the first paragraph of this blog I have used Google Services like “Google Blog Search” or “Google Trends” to prove some of my statements (in a broader sense: to give answers to those, who want to know, why this is my opinion). Such services Alpha won´t deliver, but it will do other things much better than Google. Doug Lenat:
At one extreme is, say, Google, which responds to almost anything like a faithful puppy bringing in the morning newspaper without understanding much of anything it’s fetching (recognizing words in what it returns, often leading to amusing or hair-raising inappropriate “ads” being displayed, and leading to tons of false positives and false negatives). At the other extreme is, say, Cyc, which only can answer a small fraction of user queries, but can answer ones that require common sense (not just common sense queries like “Do surgeons often operate on themselves?”, but ones where the logical application of such knowledge is required to correctly disambiguate and parse the user’s query containing pronouns, elisions, ambiguous words, ellipsis, and so on) and where every piece of the query and every piece of the answer is as deeply understood as, say, arithmetic. Wolfram Alpha is somewhere around the geometric mean of those two extremes.
Search engines or question answering machines (QA) which understand the meaning of the query and/or of the result are not completely new and some of them are really useful like good old START.
But the point is: In many cases of information demand people can´t express the right question.
Why didn´t START become the default browser if it can even answer questions? I think the USP of Alpha will be, that it can give the right answer to more questions than any other QA machine before. But still, the real “search engine revolution” won´t happen, until engines will be able to help users to formulate the proper questions and will help to interprate the right results. Therefore we need to rethink some search paradigms from scratch.