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Bing strikes licensing deal with Wolfram Alpha

Microsoft's search engine has reached some sort of deal with Wolfram Alpha to display Wolfram content in Bing search results, although the details are still unclear.

Bing will start using Wolfram Alpha's data in search results following a licensing deal.
Screenshot by Tom Krazit/CNET

Microsoft's Bing search engine is getting a little help from a very smart friend.

Wolfram Alpha and Bing have reached a licensing deal that allows Bing to present some of the specialized scientific and computational content that Wolfram Alpha generates, according to a source familiar with the deal. The deal was reported earlier by TechCrunch.

Representatives from Microsoft and Wolfram Research declined to comment on the deal.

Wolfram Alpha's unique blend of computational input and curated output hasn't taken the world by storm, but it is considered an interesting enough take on the business of Internet search to attract high-profile attention within the industry. Wolfram Alpha doesn't return the usual list of links to pages with search keywords, instead providing answers to questions such as stock prices and complex mathematical formulas--with mixed results.

Bing, on the other hand, is enjoying a solid start in the three months since it made its debut as it gains users and will at some point be the default search experience on Yahoo's highly trafficked pages following a long-awaited deal. It's not clear whether Bing results will carry Wolfram's branding (i.e., results "Powered By Wolfram Alpha"), but there will be some sort of presence.

It's unlikely that Bing is going to turn over the bulk of its results to Alpha, however. In a blog post Friday, Wolfram founder Stephen Wolfram admitted that linguistic problems are to blame for half of the occasions when Wolfram Alpha doesn't return a result. That percentage is changing as Wolfram refines the science behind Wolfram Alpha, but it will take some time.

Corrected at 3:30 p.m. PDT to clarify that half the time Wolfram Alpha doesn't understand an input query, it's due to linguistic problems. An earlier version suggested that Wolfram Alpha didn't understand queries half the time.