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ChaCha (search engine)

Founded September 1, 2006 (2006-09-01)
Founder(s) Scott A. Jones and Brad Bostic
Headquarters Carmel, Indiana, United States
Industry Internet
Services Web search, SMS-based question answering
Employees 56[1]

ChaCha is a mobile question answering service which uses a technique known as the Human search engine. ChaCha was created by Scott A. Jones and Brad Bostic. The company is based in Carmel, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis.



The name ChaCha comes from the Mandarin Chinese word, cha (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: wikt:查; pinyin: chá; Wade-Giles: ch'a), which means "to search." [2]

The number users send text message questions to is 242242, which corresponds to the company name "ChaCha" on a standard mobile keypad can or call 1-800-2-ChaCha to send a voice question.


The alpha version of the ChaCha was launched on September 1, 2006. A beta version was introduced on November 6, 2006.[3] ChaCha said 20,000 guides had registered by year end and that it had raised US$6 million in development funds, including support from Bezos Expeditions, a personal investment firm owned by Jeff Bezos, the entrepreneur behind[4] By January 2008 AP reported that ChaCha had 5,000 freelance guides with no less than 500 working at any one time.[5] Washington Post partner reported that ChaCha's first round of equity financing was actually US$ 14 million plus a US$ 2 million grant from 21st Century Technology Fund.[6] ChaCha announced on March 17, 2009[7] a new round of equity financing totaling US$12 million[8] while also laying off 25 employees and a 10 percent reduction in the remaining 56 salaries.[1][9]


Desktop search

ChaCha had originally been founded with the intention to offer human-guided search from within a web browser and for the search engine to learn from the results provided by their independent contractors.[10] The system offered a chat on the left side of the page where users could chat with the guides and conclude their search.[10] The center of the page contained the results that a guide could add or remove (later users could also add or remove these results). The right side of the page contained ads that were relevant to the search.[11]

Desktop search was phased out in April 2008 in favor of mobile products.[12]

SMS search

In January 2008 ChaCha launched a new text service that allowed users to ask questions and receive answers via text message.[13] Unlike similar Mobile search services ChaCha does not require special character codes to get results as searches are answered by humans instead of computer interpretation. A plain sentence question will get an answer along with a link to a short URL that takes users to a page that contains a link to the page where the guide gathered the results and the guide's name or handle.

ChaCha's question limits vary by customer based on what it calls "complex algorithms."[14] ChaCha does not impose a limit on certain abbreviated questions [15] and those who call in questions to 1-800-2ChaCha receive answers by text message.[16]

Voice search

ChaCha launched its beta version of a call-in search service on April 1, 2008, while discontinuing its less effective guided web search.[12] Users call a toll-free number, and their questions are answered by a human via SMS messaging.

Mobile marketing

In July 2008, ChaCha launched its first mobile marketing campaign with Coca-Cola to promote its My Coke Rewards program to users interested in NASCAR racing.[17] Fox News reported that ChaCha planned by mid 2008 to charge $5–$10 per month once 10 queries was exceeded[18] (as of April 23, 2009 no additional fees have been implemented).[19]

In November, 2008, ChaCha launched its SMS Advertising Platform at ad:tech New York.[20][21]

In March 2009, ChaCha reports 30 million "impressions per month" and "3.6 Million users" since January 2008.[22][23] An ESPN article stated that ChaCha gets about 600,000 questions each day. [24] A former Yahoo executive opened a New York office for ChaCha in hopes of increasing advertising.[1][25]


ChaCha uses independent contractors it calls Guides.[26] There are four main types of guides: Expeditors, Generalists, Specialists and Transcribers.[27] Expeditors categorize questions, convert them into standard form, provide direct responses for certain question types, and also make sure that an answer doesn't already exist for that question.[28] The purposes of a Generalist, "the original and basic ChaCha Guide role," are to: determine what the customer's question is, find an answer to the question using the internet, format the answer into a text message, and add "magic" to the answer which gives it a human quality.[29] Specialists are a more selective group of guides. They have all of the same purposes as a Generalist but they sign up for specific categories of questions based on their interest in and knowledge of those categories.[30] The duty of Transcribers is to listen to questions recorded by customers who call into 1-800-2ChaCha then convert the recorded message into text form so that Generalists and Specialists can answer them.[31]

Expeditors receive $0.03 per question[32], and transcribers receive $0.03 to transcribe a message.[33] Effective February 18, 2009, text guides receive between $0.10 and $0.22 for each answer, based upon the difficulty of the questions. Andrew Berg of reported on March 18, 2009 that ChaCha's reduction in pay rates to guides resulted in a "huge outcry on message boards" including predictions of the massive exodus of the many thousands of existing guides.[34] Berg also reports that ChaCha tells potential guides that the average earnings are $3 to $9 per hour.[35][36] Wages are based on active time only, and do not include idle time spent logged in when questions are not available. Since 2008 there has been a drastic cut in job availability. As of August 2009, ChaCha is not hiring any new Guides.[37] ESPN columnist, Rick Reilly, joined as a Guide for sports questions temporarily and joked he was "Lucy working the chocolate-factory conveyor belt" making usually over $4 per hour once he got trained.[24]


The Wall Street Journal’s personal technology columnist, Walt Mossberg, characterized ChaCha as having "fast, accurate, useful answers" in his April 24, 2008 column If You Have ChaCha and a Cellphone, You Have Answers.[38]

In April 2009, ESPN's Rick Reilly spent some time working for ChaCha for an article on ESPN The Magizine. Reilly says, "ChaCha, as most people under 103 know, is the highly addictive mobile answer service that responds to any query you send (text "ChaCha" or "242242") with a real answer from a real person, usually within three minutes, for free. Is this a great world or what?" [24]


  • Human-based computation
  • Mobile search


  1. ^ a b c "ChaCha Streamlines to Become More Efficient" March 18, 2009 by
  2. ^ , 2009,, retrieved 2009-05-24 
  3. ^ ChaCha press release, BusinessWire, November 6, 2006.
  4. ^ "ChaCha secures $6 million in private funding from Jeff Bezos, Rod Canion, Jack Gill and others", ChaCha press release, January 8, 2007.
  5. ^ "Review: ChaCha's Text-Message Search Engine"Thursday, January 17, 2008 at quoting Candace Choi with AP
  6. ^ "ChaCha Secures $12M in Financing, Reduces Staff"by Tricia Duryee of on Wednesday, March 18, 2009 quoting "peHUB"
  7. ^
  8. ^ "ChaCha Secures $12M in Financing, Reduces Staff"By Andrew Berg - March 18, 2009
  9. ^ "ChaCha Cuts Staff, Salaries To Make $12 Million In New Capital Last Longer"Washington Post March 18, 2009 quoting
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b "ChaCha Ditches Guided Search Model. I Love To Hate This Startup",, March 31, 2008.
  13. ^ "ChaCha gives you answers via text message", from CNET, January 3, 2008.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "ChaCha Cofounder Describes How the Company Is Making Money", U.S. News & World Report, August 8, 2008
  18. ^ "Review: ChaCha's Text-Message Search Engine"Thursday, January 17, 2008 at quoting Candace Choi with AP
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "ChaCha press release March 17, 2009"
  23. ^ "ChaCha Secures $12M in Financing, Reduces Staff" By Andrew Berg in - March 18, 2009]
  24. ^ a b c
  25. ^ "ChaCha's CEO, Scott Jones, on layoffs, new funding and sales staff increases"March 18, 2009 audio by
  26. ^ ChaCha Guides FAQ
  27. ^ Guide Roles
  28. ^ Expeditor|ChaCha
  29. ^ Generalist|ChaCha
  30. ^ Specialist|ChaCha
  31. ^ Transcriber|ChaCha
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ "ChaCha Secures $12M in Financing, Reduces Staff"by Andrew Berg - March 18, 2009
  35. ^ "ChaCha Secures $12M in Financing, Reduces Staff"By Andrew Berg - March 18, 2009
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^

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