Stephen Wolfram has dusted off his personal blogging slippers this week to tell us about the launch of Mathematica Online. A version of Mathematica that is accessible through any modern web browser (with no installation or configuration required), Mathematica Online aims to bring its computation system to the modern cloud environment on browsers and so on mobiles, too.
Mathematica has required a solid install up until now. Using a browser with zero configuration binds will be undeniably easier. Wolfram has provided a "notebook interface," which is the just like on the desktop — and users interactively build up a computable document, mixing text, code, graphics, etc. Users can immediately run hierarchies of cells, and even things like Manipulate.
"It's taken a lot of effort, but we've been able to implement almost all the major features of the standard Mathematica notebook interface purely in a web browser — extending CDF (Computable Document Format) to the cloud," said Wolfram.
He points out "some trade-offs", saying that Manipulate can't be "as zippy" in the cloud as it is on the desktop, because it has to run across the network. But because its Cloud CDF interface is running directly in the web browser, it can immediately be embedded in any web page, without any plugin.
With this online version, all files are stored in the cloud for immediate access. Collaboration is also good; i.e., users set permissions on files so collaborators can access them — or, for example, in a class, a professor can create notebooks in the cloud that are set so each student gets their own active copy to work with.
Wolframs says that the online and existing product fit together really well because from Mathematica Online there's a single button that "peels off" a notebook to run on the desktop — and within desktop Mathematica, you can seamlessly access notebooks and other files that are stored in the cloud.
He writes further, "If you have desktop Mathematica installed on your machine, by all means use it. But get Mathematica Online, too (which is easy to do through Premier Service Plus for individuals, or a site license add-on). And then use the Wolfram Cloud to store your files, so you can access and compute with them from anywhere with Mathematica Online. And so you can also immediately share them with anyone you want."
Wolfram's blog wraps up with news that over the next few months, his team is going to be releasing a sequence of other products based on the same technology stack, including the Wolfram Discovery Platform (providing unlimited access to the Wolfram Knowledgebase for R&D) and the Wolfram Data Science Platform (providing a complete data-source-to-reports data science workflow).