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Wolfram Alpha launches amid glitches

Myriad problems prevented Wolfram Alpha from going live Friday evening as planned, but the new search engine finally launched a few hours later.

This post was updated at 9:10 p.m. PDT to note that Wolfram Alpha is now up and running.

Wolfram Research founder Stephen Wolfram (blue shirt, center) convenes a meeting Friday night live on the Internet to discuss launch problems with Wolfram Alpha. Screenshot by Tom Krazit/CNET

Wolfram Alpha struggled to get up and rolling Friday evening under difficult conditions, as the company scaled back expectations for its performance this weekend.

The new search engine attempted to make its debut literally in the middle of the perfect storm: a tornado watch had engineers on edge in Champaign, Ill., where Wolfram Research attempted to bring the service online. However, networking and database problems also prevented the engine from launching as of 6 p.m. PDT, an hour after the company said it would go live to the world.

And to top it all off, uplink problems with the service prevented Wolfram from explaining exactly what was going on for nearly half an hour, while commenters in the chat room mercilessly heckled the company with the 21st century Bronx cheer: EPIC FAIL. Eventually, around 5:30 p.m. PDT, Wolfram founder Stephen Wolfram appeared on camera to explain that glitches were holding up the launch, as claps of thunder sounded in the background.

After initially claiming that the service would go live Friday evening, Wolfram lowered expectations by only promising a test launch over the weekend, with full service expected by Monday. Searches could not be conducted through the main home page as of 6 p.m., but it was possible to get in through a back door posted on Twitter and in the chat room and start searches, although performance was spotty.

Wolfram Research was forced to show videos showing off the data center servers and power-redundancy systems taped earlier in the day while Stephen Wolfram convened an emergency meeting to figure out what was going on. The broadcast was somewhat less-than-polished, with audio engineers talking over Wolfram's initial address to the audience and rendering much of his speech incoherent.

Please let us know if you're able to get into the search engine Friday night, and we'll update our coverage over the weekend if Wolfram is able to bring the service online.

Update at 9:10 p.m. PDT: Wolfram Alpha is now up and running and seems to be working just fine. A spokesman for Wolfram Research called at 7:30 p.m. PDT to say it was about to launch, but its exact launch time is unclear.

Screenshot by Michelle Meyers/CNET