Wolfram Alpha (http://www.wolframalpha.com) and Google Squared (http://www.google.com/squared) are two new computing services that try to present search results in a structered, factual format. Wolfram Alpha claims to be a computational knowledge engine. What this means is that instead of searching the web and just returning links to pages, it searches and computes through its own knowledge store and returns a structured representation of the information it has. It has many limitations but the idea is definitely interesting. It allows you to search in natural language and works better with factual queries. Below are some example queries and their results
Searching for India results in key demographic, cultural and geographic information
Searching for “Internet users in Europe” results in total Internet users in Europe with distribution by country, charts etc.
Since the site is built on Mathematica, it can easily compute mathematical formulas. Wolfram Alpha is no Google killer as it claims to be, but it is still an impressive piece of functionality and very interesting. I can easily imagine a host of new applications that will come up that will use the structured data output and make it useful for users. For example, I can now build a country explorer, which can get results from Wolfram Alpha for multiple country queries, and then compare them, show their maps etc. Google Squared is a similar idea too, but instead of going against an internal knowledge base, it seems to scrape data directly from the web and present it in a structured format. This is just the release 1.0 of the services, but I am looking forward their evolution.