Wolfram Alpha, the up-and-coming “answer engine” that we reported on back in May, has just released an API that developers have been awaiting since this spring. The new RESTful API provides access to the vast stores of data and computational knowledge available through the Wolfram Alpha project (technical details at our Wolfram Alpha API profile).
As announced on the Wolfram Alpha blog, developers have been enthusiastically proposing various use cases for the API:
We’ve seen interest across a wide range of areas for which the developer community wants to use Wolfram|Alpha—researching cancer through computational biology, augmenting web and meta-web search with computed knowledge, enriching online journalism with interactive content, building artificial intelligence systems on our domain expertise, leveraging our data analysis for decision support, optimizing renewable-energy efficiency, and even determining the optimal temperature for draft beer based on the current weather conditions. Clearly, a straightforward API that enables applications to access advanced computations based on trusted information and backed up by a supercomputer-class infrastructure invites developers to explore ideas that were not otherwise possible.
Perhaps one of the most visible uses of the API will be a new iPhone app being developed by the Wolfram Alpha team. The API provides results in XML format, and there are several language bindings available, including Python, Ruby, Perl, PHP, and .Net. (C++ and Java coming soon). The API allows developers to send a web request with the same query string used in Wolfram Alpha’s query box. It is not a ’small’ API, which you can tell via the 34 page Reference Guide (PDF).
Developers should note that an API key is required and that the API is not free. As shown below, they offer a tiered pricing model based on usage (in the table below, the top section shows pricing for Developer and Personal use, while the lower section shows Enterprise pricing):