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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; 13 years ago (2009-05-18)[1] (official launch)
May 15, 2009 (2009-05-15)[2] (public launch)
Current statusActive
Written inWolfram Language

WolframAlpha (/ˈwʊlf.rəm-/ WUULf-rəm-) is a computational knowledge engine and answer engine developed by Wolfram Research.[3] It answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from externally sourced data.[4][5]

WolframAlpha was released on May 18, 2009, and is based on Wolfram's earlier product Wolfram Mathematica, a computational platform for calculation, 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. It is able to respond to particularly phrased natural language fact-based questions, or more complex questions. It displays its "Input interpretation" of such a question, using standardized phrases. Mathematical symbolism can be parsed by the engine, which responds with numerical and statistical results.


WolframAlpha is written in the Wolfram Language, a general multi-paradigm programming language, and implemented in Mathematica and ran on more than 10,000 CPUs as of 2009.[9]


WolframAlpha has been used to power some searches in the Microsoft Bing and DuckDuckGo search engines but is not currently used.[10][11] For factual question answering, it is sometimes queried by Apple's Siri and Amazon Alexa for math and science queries.[12][13]


Launch preparations began on May 15, 2009, at 7 p.m. CDT and were broadcast live on Justin.tv. 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,[14] receiving mixed reviews.[15][16] In 2009, Wolfram Alpha advocates pointed to its potential, some even stating that how it determines results is more important than current usefulness.[15]

On February 8, 2012, WolframAlpha Pro was released,[17] offering users additional features for a monthly subscription fee.[17][18]

Copyright claims[edit]

InfoWorld published an article warning readers of the potential implications of giving an automated website proprietary rights to the data it generates.[19] 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.[20]

See also[edit]


  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.{{cite web}}: 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.{{cite web}}: 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". wolframalpha.com. 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. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (April 25, 2009). "Wolfram|Alpha: Our First Impressions". ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  10. ^ Krazit, Tom (August 21, 2009). "Bing strikes licensing deal with Wolfram Alpha". CNET. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  11. ^ 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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "Alexa gets access to Wolfram Alpha's knowledge engine". TechCrunch. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  13. ^ "Alexa Can Now Answer Those Tricky Math Questions". News18. December 26, 2018.
  14. ^ "Wolfram 'search engine' goes live". BBC News. May 18, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Singel, Ryan (May 18, 2009). "Wolfram|Alpha Fails the Cool Test". Wired. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  17. ^ a b Wolfram, Stephen (February 8, 2012). "Announcing Wolfram|Alpha Pro". Wolfram|Alpha Blog. Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  18. ^ "Step-by-Step Math".
  19. ^ 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[edit]