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Wolfram Alpha December 2016.svg
Type of site
Answer engine
OwnerWolframAlpha LLC
Created byWolfram Research
Employees200 (as of 2012)
LaunchedMay 18, 2009; 11 years ago (2009-05-18)[1] (official launch)
May 15, 2009 (2009-05-15)[2] (public launch)
Current statusActive
Written inWolfram Language

WolframAlpha (/ˈwʊlfrəm/ WUUL-frəm) is a computational knowledge engine[3] or answer engine developed by WolframAlpha LLC, a subsidiary of Wolfram Research. It is an online service that answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from externally sourced "curated data",[4] rather than providing a list of documents or web pages that might contain the answer, as a search engine might.[5]

WolframAlpha, which was released on May 18, 2009, is based on Wolfram's earlier flagship product Wolfram Mathematica, a computational platform or toolkit that encompasses computer algebra, symbolic and numerical computation, visualization, and statistics capabilities.[1] Additional data is gathered from both academic and commercial websites such as the CIA's The World Factbook, the United States Geological Survey, a Cornell University Library publication called All About Birds, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, Dow Jones, the Catalogue of Life,[3] CrunchBase,[6] Best Buy,[7] and the FAA.[8]


Users submit queries and computation requests via a text field. WolframAlpha then computes answers and relevant visualizations from a knowledge base of curated, structured data that come from other sites and books. The site "use[s] a portfolio of automated and manual methods, including statistics, visualization, source cross-checking, and expert review."[9] The curated data makes Alpha different from semantic search engines, which index a large number of answers and then try to match the question to one.

WolframAlpha can only provide robust query results based on computational facts, not queries on the social sciences, cultural studies or even many questions about history where responses require more subtlety and complexity. It is able to respond to particularly phrased natural language fact-based questions such as "Where was Mary Robinson born?" or more complex questions such as "How old was Queen Elizabeth II in 1974?" It displays its "Input interpretation" of such a question, using standardized phrases such as "age | of Queen Elizabeth II (royalty) | in 1974", the answer of which is "Age at start of 1974: 47 years", and a biography link. WolframAlpha does not answer queries which require a narrative response such as "What is the difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calendars?" but will answer factual or computational questions such as "June 1 in Julian calendar".

Mathematical symbolism can be parsed by the engine, which typically responds with more than the numerical results. For example, "lim(x->0) (sin x)/x" yields the correct limiting value of 1, as well as a plot, up to 235 terms (as of 2013) of the Taylor series, and (for registered users) a possible derivation using L'Hôpital's rule. It is also able to perform calculations on data using more than one source. For example, "What is the fifty-second smallest country by GDP per capita?" yields Syria, $2033 per year (as of 2019).


WolframAlpha is written in 15 million lines of Wolfram Language code implemented in Mathematica[10] and ran on more than 10,000 CPUs as of 2009.[11][12] In 2009 at launch, the database included hundreds of datasets, such as "All Current and Historical Weather." The datasets have been accumulated over several years.[13] The curated (as distinct from auto-generated) datasets are checked for quality either by a scientist or other expert in a relevant field, or someone acting in a clerical capacity who simply verifies that the datasets are "acceptable".

Licensing partners

WolframAlpha has been used to power some searches in the Microsoft Bing and DuckDuckGo search engines but is not currently used.[14][15] With the first release on July 21, 2017, Brave web browser featured WolframAlpha as one of its default search engines.[16] For factual question answering, it is sometimes queried by Apple's Siri and Amazon Alexa for math and science queries.[17][18] Samsung's S Voice (now discontinued),[19] and the voice control software on BlackBerry 10, previously queried the service.[20][21]


Launch preparations began on May 15, 2009 at 7pm CDT and were broadcast live on The plan was to publicly launch the service a few hours later. There were issues due to extreme load. The service was officially launched on May 18, 2009.[22]

WolframAlpha has received mixed reviews.[23][24] In 2009, Wolfram Alpha advocates pointed to its potential, some even stating that how it determines results is more important than current usefulness.[23]

On December 3, 2009, an iPhone app was introduced. Some users[25] considered the initial $50 price of the iOS app unnecessarily high, since the same features could be freely accessed by using a web browser instead. They also complained about the simultaneous removal of the mobile formatting option for the site.[26] Wolfram responded by lowering the price to $2, offering a refund to existing customers[27] and re-instating the mobile site.

On October 6, 2010, an Android version of the app was released[28] and it is now available for Kindle Fire and Nook. (The Nook version is not available outside the U.S.) A further 71 apps are available which use the WolframAlpha engine for specialized tasks.[29]

On June 18, 2018, the Japanese version of WolframAlpha was released.[30]

WolframAlpha Pro

On February 8, 2012, WolframAlpha Pro was released,[31] offering users additional features for a monthly subscription fee.[31][32]

Copyright claims

InfoWorld published an article[33] warning readers of the potential implications of giving an automated website proprietary rights to the data it generates. Free software advocate Richard Stallman also opposes the idea of recognizing the site as a copyright holder and suspects that Wolfram would not be able to make this case under existing copyright law.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b The Wolfram|Alpha Launch Team (May 8, 2009). "So Much for A Quiet Launch". Wolfram|Alpha Blog. Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved February 9, 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ The Wolfram|Alpha Launch Team (May 12, 2009). "Going Live—and Webcasting It". Wolfram|Alpha Blog. Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved February 9, 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b Bobbie Johnson (May 21, 2009). "Where does Wolfram Alpha get its information?". The Guardian. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  4. ^ "About Wolfram|Alpha: Making the World's Knowledge Computable". Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  5. ^ Johnson, Bobbie (March 9, 2009). "British search engine 'could rival Google'". The Guardian. UK: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  6. ^ Dillet, Romain (September 7, 2012). "Wolfram Alpha Makes CrunchBase Data Computable Just In Time For Disrupt SF". TechCrunch. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  7. ^ Golson, Jordan (December 16, 2011). "Wolfram Delivers Siri-Enabled Shopping Results From Best Buy". MacRumors. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  8. ^ Barylick, Chris (November 19, 2011). "Wolfram Alpha search engine now tracks flight paths, trajectory information". Engadget. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  9. ^ "Data in Wolfram|Alpha". Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  10. ^ WolframResearch (October 10, 2011). "Stephen Wolfram: The Background and Vision of Mathematica". Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  11. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (April 25, 2009). "Wolfram|Alpha: Our First Impressions". ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  12. ^ Wolfram, Stephen (May 15, 2009). "Wolfram|Alpha Is Launching: Made Possible by Mathematica". WolframAlpha Blog. Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  13. ^ Ozimek, Jane Fae (May 18, 2009). "Taking a first bite out of Wolfram Alpha". The Register. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  14. ^ Krazit, Tom (August 21, 2009). "Bing strikes licensing deal with Wolfram Alpha". CNET. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  15. ^ The Wolfram|Alpha Team (April 18, 2011). "Wolfram|Alpha and DuckDuckGo Partner on API Binding and Search Integration". Wolfram|Alpha Blog. Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved February 9, 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "Brave Browser Github page". Github. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  17. ^ "Alexa gets access to Wolfram Alpha's knowledge engine". TechCrunch. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  18. ^ "Alexa Can Now Answer Those Tricky Math Questions". News18.
  19. ^ SamMobile. "Samsung's old S Voice assistant is being discontinued on June 1, 2020". SamMobile. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  20. ^ "BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS Services FAQ - End of Life". Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  21. ^ "BlackBerry Teams Up with Wolfram Alpha For BlackBerry 10 Voice Control". BerryReview.
  22. ^ "Wolfram 'search engine' goes live". BBC News. May 18, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  23. ^ a b Spivack, Nova (March 7, 2009). "Wolfram Alpha is Coming – and It Could be as Important as Google". Nova Spivack – Minding the Planet. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  24. ^ Singel, Ryan (May 18, 2009). "Wolfram|Alpha Fails the Cool Test". Wired. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  25. ^ Siegler, MG (December 3, 2009). "Nice Try, Wolfram Alpha. Still Not Paying $50 For Your App". TechCrunch. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  26. ^ Luoma, TJ (December 3, 2009). "WolframAlpha iPhone-formatted web page no longer available". TUAW. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  27. ^ Broida, Rick (April 1, 2010). "Get Wolfram Alpha app for $1.99-and a refund if you paid more". CNET. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  28. ^ Rao, Leena (October 6, 2010). "Wolfram Alpha's Android app now available". TechCrunch. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  29. ^ "Wolfram|Alpha: Mobile & Tablet Apps". Wolfram Alpha. 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  30. ^ Tarai, Hideto (June 19, 2018). ""WolframAlpha" which answers any difficult calculations and questions, the Japanese version is released". Windows Forest. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  31. ^ a b Wolfram, Stephen (February 8, 2012). "Announcing Wolfram|Alpha Pro". Wolfram|Alpha Blog. Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  32. ^ "Step-by-Step Math".
  33. ^ Stallman, Richard (August 4, 2009). "How Wolfram Alpha's Copyright Claims Could Change Software". Access 2 Knowledge (Mailing list). Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. Retrieved February 17, 2012.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 April 2021, at 23:24
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