Search: 8 Reasons Why Wolfram Alpha is a Waste of Time and no Threat to Google

Wolfram Alpha error message using image from Odyssey 2001 movie of AI gone rogue called HAL

Wolfram Alpha is another overhyped “Google killer” on the block. It’s allegedly a search engine.

Google killers usually die

Do you remember the last few much hyped Google killers in the search arena? Not? Well, I do.

  • Wikia has been discontinued after just a few months.
  • Powerset had been promising but it has been bought by Microsoft and subsequently its development stopped. It’s a better Wikipedia search as of now
  • Cuil has silently vanished altogether after serving low quality results for a few years

My favorite search engine for a few years is DuckDuckGo but it’s still a niche offering despite its many benefits and advantages over Google (think private, ad-free, objective search).


OK, so what about Wolfram Alpha? I just tested it and the results are abysmal. I’d really love to see a search engine that ends the Google monopoly but sorry, Wolfram Alpha is not even a real search engine.

Reasons not to waste your time

There are at least 8 reasons why Wolfram Alpha is a waste of time and no threat to Google:

  1. bizarre name – I live in Germany where the weird name Wolfram stems from.  Even here it sounds strange and is difficult to pronounce. What about the rest of the world? Obviously the guys at Wolfram Alpha (WA from now on) couldn’t afford to ask a linguist about a name
  2. loads forever – it took ages to search with WA, usually web users stop a search or abandon a site that doesn’t appear in seconds
  3. doesn’t work – after waiting for ages, it felt like in the nineties, I got an error. WA can’t handle the load. It wasn’t just once. The network connection timed out the next time.
  4. intriguing but useless information – According to other bloggers you can find out lots of intriguing but useless information you didn’t really ask for. When you want to play around you might want to use it, not for search though.
  5. not enough choices – In spite of the fact that most searchers click the first result as the most accurate you still expect a choice of at least several sites. Not on WA. You get one answer. It’s not a good one though in many cases.
  6. most searches are no “questions or calculations” – Most searches are simple words or word combinations. Only a small percentage are real questions. Do you remember Ask? Yeah, it’s a search engine that focused on answering questions. It’s almost forgotten by now.
  7. nonsense results for common terms or dictionary results instead (test query “design”) – The first thing I always search for on new search engines is SEO. In case an engine manages to find the best results there it will also manage elsewhere.

    WA doesn’t even know what SEO is! I thought it was maybe my fault searching for such an exotic term like SEO.

    Thus I tried a more popular query like “design”. What did I get? I got a dictionary and thesaurus definition and no search results. I know what design is, I don’t need a “search engine” for it. Sorry.

  8. other Google alternatives offer better results without succeeding, try DuckDuckGo or Yandex. All other still existing search engines offer better results than Wolfram Alpha.I showed you why DuckDuckGo is really a good alternative for some queries by now. Why the hell should I use a broken dictionary instead?

What is Wolfram Alpha and why use it then?

Alpha is geek speak but means in “natural language” rather “in early stages of development” or “I’m broken” and yes it is. Usually the first impression counts when it comes to software.

When it’s broken you won’t use it in future (when it’s fixed) either, especially if you have one that works. Why bother with Wolfram Alpha then?

Wolfram Alpha is the latest joke from the same hype machine that offered us the swine flu scare and the Oprah/KFC coupons disaster.

I’d like to cite Public Enemy number 1: “Don’t believe the hype!” Btw.: To make it even more ludicrous WA doesn’t get even the basic definitions right.

Check out abysmal and compare to a dictionary search for abysmal.

Whatever Wolfram Alpha is: it’s not a search engine and it’s not a threat to Google. It’s a waste of time for most people. It may be fun for geeks.