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ChaCha gives you answers via text message

Human-powered search site morphs into search for mobile users.

Human-powered search site ChaCha is launching a new service that allows you to ask questions and get the answers all over text message.

ChaCha was set to launch its free search service for mobile phone users on Jan. 3.

Basically, you can text any question to "242242" (which spells "chacha" on a phone) and a "live search expert" will respond.


I tried it out with some questions that I thought might be useful if I were out on the road and not sitting at my computer and the answers were accurate and, in general, very prompt.

For instance, I asked for the phone number and address of my new favorite breakfast place, Mojo Bicycle Café. Within a few minutes I had a text back with the information, along with a "Have a great day!"

Next I asked how to say "thanks" in Tagalog. Four minutes later I had my answer, "Salamat" in casual use and "Salamat po" for more formal usage. It took nine minutes for someone on the other end to tell me how late BART runs in San Francisco (only until midnight).

My text shorthand, such as "add" for "address" and "ds" for "does" was recognized. I wanted to test it with a trivia question but got tired of texting.

The responses have a URL at the end where you can go to see the question and answer on the Web. There is also information on that page about who answered the question (first name and last initial), when they started answering questions at ChaCha and how many searches they have conducted.

There are about 8,000 active search experts at ChaCha, who are paid anywhere from $5 to $10 an hour, depending on their performance, according to ChaCha co-founder and Chief Executive Scott Jones.)

For ChaCha, mobile is the future, although a subscription fee or ads will likely be in the picture. "We believe (mobile search) is much bigger than desktop search ultimately," Jones says.

The company has a deal with the Sundance Film Festival to provide a co-branded mobile answer service where festival goers during the January event can find out things like whether showings are sold out, how long the wait time is in line, where the parties are and what celebrities will be there.