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Wolfram announces 'most important' project: a programming language that models the world

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Stephen Wolfram at a conference earlier this year (NEXT Berlin / Flickr).

The power of Wolfram Alpha — the intelligent search engine that can answer natural language questions and solve complex math problems — is being built into an upcoming programming language that its founder, Stephen Wolfram, says will be incredibly easy to use. The language, Wolfram writes, is "a way to go from an idea to a fully deployed realization in an absurdly short time." It's called Wolfram Language, and it's an evolution of what's been used inside of his company Wolfram's popular Mathematica software for over 25 years now.

Complex functions are built right into Wolfram Language

Wolfram's intention is to build a language that includes simple ways to do regularly complex tasks, from image processing, to creating graphs, to understanding natural language. "It becomes trivial to write a program that makes use of the latest stock price, computes the next high tide, generates a street map, shows an image of a type of airplane, or a zillion other things," writes Wolfram. Wolfram says that it'll be a general-purpose language — like C++ or Java — that can be used to create a variety of different applications. Unlike most languages, however, it won't rely heavily on external libraries that augment its abilities, as so many functions will be built straight in. "So in a sense inside the Wolfram Language we have a whole computable model of the world," Wolfram writes.

Though Wolfram says that the language will be able to build standalone desktop apps, his company is also going to launch a Programming Cloud, which will allow developers to create and deploy apps over the web. The language will presumably be quite high level, and it's possible that Wolfram is hoping to take advantage of cloud computing to mitigate speed issues. "We intend to make [Wolfram Language] as widely accessible to everyone as possible," Wolfram writes. "The Wolfram Language is a wonderful first language to learn (and we've done some very successful experiments on this)."

Wolfram also says that the language will allow for a lot of advancements in Mathematica, including the launch of Mathematica Online, which can run entire sessions inside of a web browser. But outside of "coming soon," there's no exact timeframe yet for when the language will launch to the public. Wolfram promises more updates and descriptions of the project in the months to come, noting that this first announcement can't quite describe it in full. "So far I can see only the early stages of what this will lead to," he writes. "But already I can tell that what’s happening is our most important technology project yet."