One of my ads is subject to contention due to the fact that the site it's an ad for (Wolfram Alpha) isn't based off a free engine, though the site itself is free.

Do we allow ads for commercial enterprises?

Is Wolfram Alpha considered a commercial enterprise?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure but you might also need their permission to use their logo. There is information on using the Mathematica logo and the Wolfram Alpha Logo for widget builders who use their API, but none for such purposes. $\endgroup$
    – kuch nahi
    Dec 10, 2011 at 7:23
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, but community-ads is restricted because it's mechanically necessary for the actual ad system. It should not be used on any questions except those actually running the ads. $\endgroup$
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Dec 10, 2011 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Grace Is there another tag for just talking about the ads? $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 10, 2011 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ @John Let's create one. $\endgroup$
    – Grigory M
    Dec 10, 2011 at 19:43

3 Answers 3


To my knowledge Wolfram Alpha is the best extant tool for quickly plotting functions and performing elementary numerical and symbolic calculations. It is free-as-in-beer, doesn't require the installation of any extra software, works on any platform, and results can be conveniently linked to from math.SE posts and comments.

I have no doubt that informing users about Wolfram Alpha will decrease the number of very elementary algebra/calculus questions asked here, and increase the quality of the ones that still are. If the only cost is incidental advertisement of Mathematica, I'm not bothered by it. (And I certainly don't object to also linking to free-as-in-speech alternatives, if any exist.)


It is common usage on this site to link to Wolfram mathworld where it is useful. It is obviously the case that commercial enterprises sponsor useful math websites (or exhibitions or marathons) because they think that the positive image will increase sales. But the increase in reputation is a real deserved one, not an incidental manipulated one.

I fully endorse the community ad for Sage, but I don't think that the Wolfram alpha ad should be removed. If people want to vote it down, that's fine, of course.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't recall anyone saying that "the Wolfram alpha ad should be removed". Rather, there was only my "call for discussion of ads before giving free advertising to commercial enterprises such as Wolfram Research". Could you please edit your post to correct this inaccurate remark - before it leads the discussion astray. $\endgroup$ Dec 10, 2011 at 14:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque I am responding to the question in this thread, not to your call for discussion. The question in the title is "should we allow". Since anyone who disagrees can already vote it down, I took this to mean additional measures. What is your interpretation of "not allowing it" if it doesn't mean to remove it? $\endgroup$
    – Phira
    Dec 10, 2011 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ The question specifically is "Do we allow ads for commercial enterprises?" It was sparked by my linked CFD (call for discussion) of the proposed Wolfram Alpha ad. Generally such policy discussions work much better if one abstracts the discussion to consider the general issues - hence my more general CFD of community endorsed ads for commercial enterprises. $\endgroup$ Dec 10, 2011 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque There is no consensus that ads for commercially sponsored sites are ads for commercial enterprises. You cannot expect me to adhere to your general framing, if this point of view is exactly what I disagree with. You have still not said in what way "remove an ad" is a misrepresentation of "not allow it". $\endgroup$
    – Phira
    Dec 10, 2011 at 15:14

I don't see why you'd need to. Say MathOverflow put a nominal $1 fee before you can post questions just as a form of quality filter. Would you then not put a link to that site because it's not completely free?

You should link to think that you find useful, and awesome, and underrated. We don't need advertisements for four function calculators or Mathematica, but perhaps you know of a very cool group of passionate people that deserves more exposure, or an awesome tool that you feel might come in handy to the audience of the site. The price tag then doesn't really matter.

I've posted an ad about LyX, for example, on the presumption that writing about maths is what most regulars do here, and doing extensively so with the most popular writing software, Microsft Word, is an absolute disgrace. Even if LyX wasn't free and libre, I feel that'd still be a very appropriate ad for the site.

At the end of the day, the community ads aren't free to post anyway. If you want your own activity advertised on the site, you need 5 reputation (as a moderator on another site, I can tell you this barrier is not as insignificant as it sounds: those first 5 points are the hardest earned ones) and 6 upvotes from other users not associated with your product.

If you feel somebody is being excessively greedy, you can just vote their ad down. It's still not a good idea to ban community advertisements tout court for anything that comes with a price tag.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for "Microsft". $\endgroup$
    – kinokijuf
    Dec 18, 2011 at 13:35

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