# Wolfram|Alpha Is Launching: Made Possible by *Mathematica*

Starting later today, we’ll be launching Wolfram|Alpha (you can see the proceedings on a live webcast).

This is a proud moment for us and for the whole *Mathematica* community. (We hope the launch goes well!)

Wolfram|Alpha defines a new direction in computing—that would have simply not have been possible without *Mathematica*, and that in time will add some remarkable new dimensions to *Mathematica* itself.

In terms of technology, Wolfram|Alpha is a uniquely complex software system, which has been entirely developed and deployed with *Mathematica* and *Mathematica* technologies.

We are still at the beginning of Wolfram|Alpha as a long-term project, but already it contains nearly 6 million lines of *Mathematica* code—all, of course, authored and maintained in Wolfram *Workbench*.

When we launch Wolfram|Alpha this weekend, it will be running *Mathematica* on about 10,000 processor cores, using grid*Mathematica*-based parallelism. And every single query that comes into the system will be served with web*Mathematica*.

If you watch the live webcast tonight, you’ll see lots of real-time system analysis, logging, and visualization—all written in *Mathematica*.

I’ve been thinking about building Wolfram|Alpha for a very long time.

But one of the most important things that’s made it possible now is the state of *Mathematica* today.

We’ve always thought that *Mathematica* was an increasingly development environment. But what we’ve done with the development of Wolfram|Alpha in the past few years serves as living proof.

The *Mathematica* Computable Data Initiative was the testbed for the large-scale data curation system that we’ve set up for Wolfram|Alpha. And this curation system itself relies on many features of *Mathematica*. We’re importing data in almost every conceivable format using *Mathematica*‘s import capabilities. We’re combining and analyzing data using *Mathematica*‘s data, statistics and visualization capabilities. Our human curation and expert review process is done using *Mathematica* symbolic documents, with extensive dynamic interface capabilities. And our whole central data repository system is written in *Mathematica*, with symbolic representations of data and its relationships, and efficient underlying use of *DatabaseLink* for relevant large and real-time datasets.

Already in *Mathematica 7* we’ve integrated many kinds of data seamlessly into the *Mathematica* language. And within *Mathematica* it’s possible to do arbitrarily flexible large-scale computations with the data. Wolfram|Alpha adds tremendous ease of use for small-scale computations—as well as introducing a large number of new types of data, which can potentially be accessed for large-scale computation in *Mathematica* in the future.

Beyond curated data, another important aspect of Wolfram|Alpha is its ability to actually do computations. In building Wolfram|Alpha, we’ve been systematically implementing all the methods and models of science and other areas whether quantitative approaches can be used. This is of course an immense undertaking, and without *Mathematica* it would have been impossible.

The coherent symbolic structure of *Mathematica* is crucial to constructing the frameworks that make the programming even vaguely conceivable. And in the actual implements of so many models and methods, we’re using practically every corner of *Mathematica*‘s huge web of algorithmic capabilities.

Often there may be some simple approximation that could be implemented just as a formula. But because we have *Mathematica*, we can do the real computation—and get real state-of-the-art results, solving differential equations, performing global optimizations, and doing whatever sophisticated math or computations are needed.

One of the highly visible features of Wolfram|Alpha is its ability to understand free-form linguistic input. And this too would have been impossible without *Mathematica*.

There are many parts to Wolfram|Alpha’s linguistic processing system. But one common theme is the deep use of symbolic programming and *Mathematica*‘s unique symbolic pattern-matching capabilities. And here again the immediate access to efficient algorithms is also crucial—whether it be for string processing, discrete math or something else. (Who knew that parsing nested sequences of |’s is best done with efficient linear programming?)

Yet another central aspect of Wolfram|Alpha is its automated presentation of results. And here again, many parts of *Mathematica* play crucial roles.

Every output from Wolfram|Alpha is constructed by the Wolfram|Alpha server as a *Mathematica* notebook. The ability to automatically typeset tables, math and collections of graphics of unknown sizes and shapes is crucial.

And the automatic computational aesthetics built into *Mathematica* are what have made it practical to implement thousands of different kinds of visualizations in Wolfram|Alpha.

If one looks at the internal code of Wolfram|Alpha, it’s amazing how diverse the uses of *Mathematica* are. Two principles bring it all together.

The first is the symbolic character of *Mathematica*—which makes it possible to implement so many diverse kinds of knowledge in a unified way, and have them successfully interact with each other.

The second is automation—the idea that functions in *Mathematica* should be as automated as possible—automatically selecting algorithms, choosing visualizations, working out import formats, and so on. Because automation is what makes it feasible to create a robust system of the magnitude and functionality of Wolfram|Alpha with manageable resources.

And even beyond the actual user-visible functionality of Wolfram|Alpha, *Mathematica* has been crucial in the project.

All of the many automated testing systems for Wolfram|Alpha are written in *Mathematica*—and rely on such diverse capabilities as parallel computation, symbolic structure comparison, and bitmap image manipulation.

*Mathematica* has been extensively used in meta-analysis of the code base and of the development process itself. And for example the ability to easily create complex interactive algorithmic diagrams—say to represent stages in linguistic processing—has been crucial.

So *Mathematica* is what’s inside Wolfram|Alpha—and what’s made Wolfram|Alpha possible.

But how will Wolfram|Alpha interact with *Mathematica*?

There are several ways.

First, at the bottom of each Wolfram|Alpha output page, there’s a button that says “Download Live *Mathematica*“.

What that does is to download the results on the page as a *Mathematica* notebook.

The *Mathematica* notebook has many immediate advantages over Wolfram|Alpha’s standard web presentation.

First, the graphics are resolution-independent and resizable. And 3D graphics can immediately be zoomed and rotated.

But what’s more important is that you can take the output from Wolfram|Alpha and actually compute with it in *Mathematica*.

And you can also click the Use Input button on particular Wolfram|Alpha output pods in the notebook, and get *Mathematica* input that would generate the basic output in the pod.

In fact, in a sense, Wolfram|Alpha is the ultimate “discovery interface” for *Mathematica*. If you want to know what how to refer to something in `CountryData`, just enter it in free-form linguistics in Wolfram|Alpha, and Wolfram|Alpha will show you the precise *Mathematica* syntax for what you want.

One way to see the *Mathematica* code is to get the Live *Mathematica* Notebook.

But if you just want to know the *Mathematica* code for a particular Wolfram|Alpha output pod, you can click on the pod and look at the popup.

So long as there’s a simple representation of the pod computation in *Mathematica*, there’ll be a “*Mathematica* plaintext input” field in the popup—that you can copy and paste anywhere. (Notice also the links to *Mathematica* function information in the right sidebar.)

So if you ever forget how to specify a computation in *Mathematica*, you can just go to Wolfram|Alpha and enter the computation in free form, using any kind of natural notation or language.

Needless to say, I’m sure this capability will be important when people are first learning *Mathematica*—and it’s one of the things future versions of *Mathematica* will be able to call on Wolfram|Alpha to do.

In a sense, *Mathematica* and Wolfram|Alpha take opposite positions in the representation of computation.

Wolfram|Alpha is set up to have short one-off inputs, that can sloppily mix all sorts of notations with fragments of natural language. And Wolfram|Alpha then works by using its linguistic processing capabilities to figure out what the most likely meaning of the input is.

*Mathematica*, on the other hand, is set up to be a precise, coherent, consistent system, where inputs follow clear general principles—and can combined in completely arbitrary ways, to build up programs of arbitrary complexity, like the nearly 6 million lines of Wolfram|Alpha’s own code base.

Over the next few years, I suspect some of the most dramatic and unexpected advances will come from combining the Wolfram|Alpha and the *Mathematica* views of computation.

Wolfram|Alpha will soon support an API, and *Mathematica* will probably be its richest client.

But as we imagine the future of *Mathematica* symbolic notebook interfaces and local computation, interacting with large-scale central Wolfram|Alpha servers and the breadth of Wolfram|Alpha’s capabilities, the possibilities are quite spectacular.

Wolfram|Alpha introduces a concept of knowledge-based computing—that builds on *Mathematica*, and then provides remarkable new power for *Mathematica* itself.

If the past is a guide, it’ll be quite a few years before we understand the full implications of all these possibilities.

But as of now—today—it’s exciting to see just what we have been able to build in Wolfram|Alpha with *Mathematica*.

And quite soon, well over 10,000 *Mathematica*s will be running on our compute servers to launch what’s probably the most complex and computation intensive website ever.

And begin the next phase in the evolution of computing—all made possible by *Mathematica*.

This is a very exciting project and I wish you and your team the very best of luck with this weekend’s launch.

Very exciting, looking forward to working with the product.

After seeing the demo, I said out loud to myself “The world has just changed!” This is beyond my wildest dreams! Congratulations and thank you.

Outstanding blog entry. Your passion for this project comes through in each W|A blog entry and videocast you have posted. It truly feels like a new paradigm-shifting technology is being born, and we are all given a front-row seat to its birth. Will history remember this moment 100 years from? It surely doesn’t seem out of the question.

I wish all the team good luck with the launch! That represents a very good user story of Mathematica tecnology.

Wow! This is an amazing website. I hope everything goes more or less smoothly for you, and I can see this really taking off in a big way! Good luck!

If your article today is to be believed, the leap in man-machine interface is enormous. While I have no idea how this gargantuan project has been funded, if it is successful, the world will benefit enormously and be willing to support future development with a gread deal of resources.

When it will be launched?

8PM ET

I am so feakin exited that i can not wait…………. i want to use this now……..

I am blown away by the possibilities, and can’t wait to get my hands on this!!

Dr. Wolfram,

To your surprise that more web news is not available for this historic event, I think you may need a marketing pro who can move this along as a sustainable and evolving success.

If you agree, contact info is kcorbino@juno.com

It worked just now for a while!!! Honestly I could see examples and their results.

Good luck everyone.

Admirers from Germany are very excited to what will be going on.

Let it think! Let us know!

Hello Team,

This will be a new History marking point I am glad to be a part of it I wish the whole team lots of success

Erik

Netherlands

Biggest thing to happen to the web in regards to data discovery and manipulation. The future will be here within 24 hours, all the other “dumb input boxes” starting with G, Y and M will be left in Mathematica’s dust.

Wishing you all the best with the launch, and i hope 10,000 cores will slice through the loads.. This must be fairly computationally expensive so fingers crossed.

Go WA!

I’m really looking forward to the launch!! Can’t wait to try it out and see what I can do. I’ve already wrote down some sample query’s that Google wasn’t too helpful with so I can test them out here.

Hello Im from Buenos Aires Argentina, I want to tell the team that everyone here are wating for this incredible thing. I hope everything will be all right thank you!!

PD> in which time does it begin on argentina_

here from morocco i wait, kurosagi_@hotmail.fr,preparing questions hhhh

Sounds great! Best of luck with the launch and I can’t wait to try it. Let’s hope, however, that Wolfram Alpha doesn’t link up with Guardian and cause all sorts of trouble . . . ;-)

I just watched your demonstration and I can’t wait to start using it, WOW.

One question I have is in relation to the part of the demonstration where you queried the name andrew and got some information and you then added the name paul and got a comparison of data about the two names.

What if I was looking for information about someone named Andrew Paul?

Thanks

Good Luck !! It really ROCKS !!.Just seen the video -very much impressed :)

As scientist, I don’t have second thoughts that, starting from this night, Wolfram Alpha has the potential in becoming in the number 1 site to be consulted by the whole scientific community in the world. I wish you the best of lucks in :

* handling the immense load that the site will receive

* putting all that dispersed science in one single entity

* having a sustainable business model

* and for the tons of prizes that this tremendous work should deserve for the next years

To all the Wolfram team and its partners, please accept my sincere felicitations and my full recognition for your wonderful work

Sam

Will we be able to watch the webcast as video if we don’t watch it live?

How do we know that you don’t have a room full of knowledgeable people to answer our questions? It sounds like we will not be able to tell! Good Luck

As i can understand, it’ll be released at 12.00am GMT. Am I right?

Just watched the demo and I can not wait to see the finished (well, ‘started’ I guess I should say) product in action. I really believe this has the potential to revolutionize the way humans interact with computers.

I can’t begin to imagine the work that went in to this and appreciate you and your team opening up this tool for the public. Hope your processors can handle the load!!!!

Sin lugar a dudas Wolfram – Alpha va a revolucionar completamente la forma como se busca información en internet.en la medida en que permitirá utilizar un lenguaje semántico y mostrará resultados que integran y potencializan el conocimiento humano.

Les deseo la mejor de las suertes.

Good luck from Moldova! I hope your service will be better than google!

If you need to reduce the load you could delay answering questions until the questioner had chosen from any alternatives.

thank you Stephen Wolfram and team Wolfram Alpha for building this internet technology.

- jason nadaf

Outstanding !!! So out of the ordinary that I can’t wait to see this going on. As another person just posted, I think this is an historical event: the world as we know it is changing for ever with this kind of tool. Best of wishes from Argentina

Having launched a few websites in my time, you guys are totally nuts. The goal of a website launch is to have a gradual ramp-up in traffic so that any problems aren’t catastrophic.

Having a deliberate high-profile public launch like this, on camera?! Either your engineers are inexperienced, or were incapable of talking sense to whoever decided to do a launch this way.

cmon hit the switch, it’s getting late here in the Netherlands (01.44)

Herald technology headlines today

Google service stumbles

Wolfram Alpha – the web search acid test

Premonitory?

OK – So it is really clever and does all these wonderful things

But only if you let us use it

Are you going to turn it on?

Wow, thanks to Wolfram Alpha I can quit my job, divorce my wife, sell all my possessions, shave my entire body, gain that frontal lobotomy I’ve always wanted, and become one with the computer!

Hi All,

I just tried Wolframaalpha.com, this is my notes:

1) I will see to Google: do not worry, it is less than what we expect.

2) This is NOT a search engine, I think they need to call it something else

3) I did not get what I expect, all I got when I search for “google” is : financial information

4) Very Slowwwwwwwwwwwww

5) So, all I get when I search for “google” is one page!!!!!!

6) It is sucks

To Ammar: Nobody every pretended this is a search engine or a Google killer – it’s a computation engine. I’d expected more in terms of finding pure facts of information – often information is already there but it’s well hidden – this seems to mainly a problem of the query parser – but there’s an enourmous potential here.

Hello,

I think we are in front of a huge step forward in the history of computing. Thank you to all the team for the deep of my hearth for making this possible. I will show this to my kids and explain them the importance of this moment. Please keep doing your incredible work!

Actually, when I click on download Live Mathematica nothing happens. A small popup appears and disappears and that’s it.

[...] Mathematica in his courses. So when he heard Wolfram Research was launching Wolfram|Alpha, which is built on Mathematica, he knew it would become a major resource for engaging students in [...]