I've been attending the Search Engines Strategies conference all day today, and I'll write a bit more about that later. In one discussion about the future of search, a panelist mentioned Wolfram|Alpha.
I'll admit, I hadn't heard of Wolfram|Alpha. I wrote down the name and Googled it at the next opportunity. It's an online service that answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from structured data, rather than providing a list of documents or web pages that might contain the answer as a search engine might. It was only unveiled to the public last month, so I'm not that far behind the times, but I was surprised I hadn't heard of it.
Their goals are lofty:
Wolfram|Alpha aims to bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people—spanning all professions and education levels. Our goal is to accept completely free-form input, and to serve as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and presents them with maximum clarity.
Wolfram|Alpha is an ambitious, long-term intellectual endeavor that we intend will deliver increasing capabilities over the years and decades to come. With a world-class team and participation from top outside experts in countless fields, our goal is to create something that will stand as a major milestone of 21st century intellectual achievement.
I just Wolfram|Alpha'd my given name. No wonder I know so many Mikes!