Kamis, 03 Januari 2008

ChaCha Debuts Human-Powered Mobile Search (NewsFactor)

Watch out Google, ChaCha is doing a mobile search dance uniquely its own. ChaCha on Thursday announced a new service that allows users to text questions of any kind to 242242, which spells ChaCha on most mobile phones, and receive answers back by text.

While the service might not look unique at first glance, it is actually a really human being that sends the answers back. The service is currently available as a free trial, although the company said it plans to offer subscriptions in the future.

Much like the 411 concierge-style services currently offered by most cellular services providers, ChaCha promises to answer questions that people cant find easily while on the go. For example, you could ask, "Im at the corner of 42nd & Broadway in New York City. Where can I get a cup of coffee?" Or even "Where can I get some great sushi in Palo Alto, Calif.?"


Users can send questions in casual language -- even slang, shortcuts, and misspellings -- without any special formatting or rules.

"What I find interesting about ChaChas cell phone service is it helps you use the power of the Web even though you dont have an expensive smartphone," Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group, said in a statement.

"This isnt about getting people to buy an expensive phone and service," he said. "Its about making any phone, from the smartest to the simplest, more useful."

ChaCha users can ask about sports scores, movie times, airline delays, weather, or local information, including the gas prices and pharmacy locations, for example. ChaCha also answers questions about current events, trivia, or just general contact information for local businesses and residences.


ChaCha has a real opportunity in what is still an open field in mobile search, according to Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. While the desktop players are well-entrenched, he said, there isnt established consumer behavior and brand loyalty in mobile search yet.

"ChaCha is different from most of whats out there," Sterling went on to say. "It is easy to use and in many ways offers greater efficiency because you are not receiving links that you have to explore."

The million-dollar question is whether anybody will be willing to pay for the service. "Its possible to develop a subscription model for mobile search in a way that you cant do on the desktop today," Sterling said. "But it would be a service thats clearly better than free competitors."

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