Wolfram Alpha, yet another pretender to Google's throne.

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
May 18 2009 5:48 PM

Like Google, Only Much, Much Worse

Wolfram Alpha is yet another pretender to the search giant's throne.

(Continued from Page 1)

This is the eternal problem for any wannabe Google competitor. Wolfram Alpha doesn't revolutionize search; at best, it adds a marginally useful new layer on top of it. But Google can easily co-opt such improvements—and suddenly everyone's got a better Google. Maybe Google's the real HAL 9000, sending the same message to anyone who dares to take it on: I wouldn't do that, Dave.

Correction, May 21, 2009: This piece originally referred to the Web site Wolfram Alpha as "a savant, smart about a few things but profoundly ignorant about large swaths of human knowledge." The correct term is idiot savant. Return to the corrected sentence.

Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough.