November 21, 2016
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As far as web search tools go, few have generated as much hype as Wolfram Alpha. The service, which bills itself as a "computational knowledge engine," differs from search engines such as Google, in that it does not return lists of web pages. Rather, Wolfram Alpha attempts to calculate answers to user queries. For example, a query of "los angeles county median household income" will return the result "$43,518."
Innovation in web service APIs is not always technical, sometimes it's about money. Such is the case with Yahoo's announcement that later this year they will begin charging for usage of BOSS (Build your Own Search Service), their search web service for developers. Given that search revenue is typically ad-driven, and that advertising doesn't typically mesh with APIs, this has meant that search APIs have been one of the most challenging classes of APIs for providers to monetize. So it's notable to see how Yahoo has chosen to tackle this: via a 'utility' pricing model, somewhat akin to how infrastructure services like Amazon Web Services charge by usage.