Monday, May 18, 2009, Hello, Internet, We've been waiting for you... stormed onto the scene May 15th offer a plethora of data accessible by simple query. Were Google searches the web for information, Wolframalpha searches databases to provide you with succinct information on a variety of tops ranging from historical weather to calculus. It will even help with crossword puzzles!

WRA, I have taken the liberty to apply the obligatory acronym, comes in a day and age when the new-ness of the internet has worn off. People have stopped exploring, stopped "Surfing" and have likely become comfortable with a handful of sites they use every day. Google for search, Google News for current events, Gmail for email and Facebook or Twitter for social networking.

Getting back to basics and realizing there is an un-manageable amount of data out there in cyberspace that has to be tracked down discretely where its content owner/provider has posted it has really taken the fun out of exploring. The time it takes to peruse Wikipedia and scan an article for a few bits of pertinent information may not seem like a lot, but it is all essentially wasted time.

Yahoo Pipes has allowed the common user to build pipes with little knowledge of the workings of the internet to distill live information into RSS Feeds. These feeds are read by readers such as Google Reader. This gets streams of information in one area, but the user is still tasked with distilling the information down to data.

WRA is the tool, the brute force, that is the next step of the internet. Forget about Web 2.0 where stoners were supposed to revolutionize the net by commenting on the taco stand down the street. WFA is a useful, shift in the way we interact with the web and begin to treat it like a gigantic lookup table of all digitally indexed information.

Is WRA a threat to Google? Those who claim it is are missing the point. Using a point to access and calculate reams of data does not compete with the ability to search stories and context. WRA has created a niche and hopefully will start the ball rolling on the next iteration of the web.

At this point, I have only played with WRA a couple hours and watched their 13 minute "quick" introduction. I am anxious to learn their method of accessing data, do they host it or point to existing databases? What db standards are they using and how easily can they point to new data sources? What vetting process goes into testing the data before it goes into production?

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