Go take a look at Wolfram Alpha.
It’s a “computational knowledge engine.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? It definitely has the potential to completely blow away any factual search engine that has come previously, of which the most prominent example may be Powerset.
The brains behind this, Stephen Wolfram, is an acclaimed computer scientist that has had many incredible creations already, including the heavily used software package Mathematica, which adds jaw-dropping features in every release, and the stunning if controversial book A New Kind of Science, so he definitely has the background and the resources to create a good factual search engine. In fact, Wolfram has frequently posited, both in A New Kind of Science, and other sources, that he believes computation can be a valid representation of knowledge and science. Hence, Wolfram Alpha is based on what VentureBeat describes well as “terabytes of curated data and millions of lines of algorithms” to create a representation of computable human knowledge.
While I can’t say anything to the efficacy of this–it may blow all of us away come May, or it could be the next Cuil–it will definitely be a step forward in the problem of factual search. With Wolfram’s entire focus behind this project, and with the concession that this is still a work in progress, I do hope that this will actually work much better than Powerset (which is not to say anything bad about Powerset–they were a little underwhelming, but technically, I can see the incredible technology and useful research that went into building it).
If anyone can get me early access to Wolfram Alpha, I would owe you a big one.