Hands down, Wolfram is awesome. Mathematica has been my favorite computer algebra system* from the start (okay, there were some wrong ways towards Maple in the very beginning, but hey, everybody makes mistakes); and Wolfram|Alpha is a big step (and still stepping) towards a huge semantic web.
A user can enter an arbitrary Wolfram|Alpha query (usually a city), the query is sent to W|A and the result is parsed on the client side. All items in the result that refer to geolocations are queried also to get a set of markers on the map. With nice info windows showing the data that W|A returned for them.
W|A sends quite a lot of information, but for now I was only interested in plain facts. These can be accessed using the
plaintext field for every so-called “subpod”. Each of these plaintexts actually represents a table encoded by newlines and
| separators. One could argue about the elegance of this representation in the API, but whatever.
The W|A API is a server-side-only API, as it doesn’t set the
Access-Control-Allow-Origin HTTP header to
*, so accessing it directly from any modern browser will violate the same-origin policy and thus fail. Therefore, a thin PHP wrapper on a server is needed. The good thing is that this wrapper can also cache queries to avoid reaching the free API limit of 2000 monthly calls too soon.
It’s been a nice day of hacking. Any thoughts on how to turn this into something (even more) useful?