9.7.09

WolframAlpha, Bing, and Google

First off, sorry for not posting in over a month. I know a lot of you used to read this, and it's my fault entirely that I've left off posting. Hopefully within the next couple of months I'll be able to start posting regularly again. I'll explain what's been going on in a future post, hopefully.

I was reading http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/07/wolfram-alpha-and-hubristic-user.html and it kicked off an interesting train of thought in my mind. A lot of people have been talking about Bing and WolframAlpha lately. I am a halfhearted Google fan; I like their services, but I kinda have to suppress my privacy paranoia to use them. That said, I use Gmail and Blogger and hopefully soon Google Voice (if they ever give me an invite...).

WolframAlpha piqued my interest when it came out. However, when I used it, I ran into the same problems as the guy describes: the tools are there, but it's hard to get WolframAlpha to guess which tool you need. I've tried to use it for a few searches, but ultimately ended up going to Google for my info--although what I needed could have been easily provided by WolframAlpha. And I've only wanted it once or twice in the few months that it's been out. Maybe that would change if I could actually see a list of the features it has and tell it exactly what I want it to do. But ultimately, it will not have as much usefulness to me as Google does, even though I'm a student, which is probably a large part of the target audience for WolframAlpha.

Same thing with Bing. Sure, it's nice to be able to look up celebrities or sports teams to find scores and pictures and news and whatnot, but in practice, how much do you actually do that? For me, most of my internet searching is for specific, detailed information--either research for a school paper, or information on computer issues like setting up e17 on Debian. I don't use Bing simply because I don't need or want those features. If I wanted to have a switching UI, I'd use Bing. But most of the time, I just want a plain full-text search.

Oh, and the times when I actually do want news or something? Google will most likely throw in a "News" hit section that will give me what I'm looking for. And if that's not what I'm looking for, I still have all the full-text search results which probably are what I'm looking for.

Ultimately, neither Bing nor WolframAlpha are useful to me. WolframAlpha because I can't get to the features I need easily and quickly, and Bing because I don't need what it gives me in addition to Google. Neither have given me a reason to use them over what I already have: Google.

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