The human powered web search never really worked out. But ChaCha evolved. In 2008 they launched a mobile version of the service that lets users ask questions via SMS. Putting a human into the mix makes sense with mobile, with poor (or no) data connectivity and hard to use keyboards. But all phones have SMS, and ChaCha had a hit on their hands (they also had the infamous Eiffel Tower incident).
And ChaCha also made another smart move. They started archiving questions and answers on their website in January 2009. 300 million of them are now published on their website – you can view and search them from the ChaCha home page. Those pages have lots of ads generating revenue, and the search engines tend to rank pages like these highly. The company serves just under a million page views to answer pages per day, they say.
We’ve said all along, though, that the ChaCha mobile service was useful. But we questioned its scalability since it involves humans.
Jones says they’re scaling just fine, thanks to tens of thousands of part time guides who work from their homes for an average wage of $2.50/hour. It’s not much, but they do it voluntarily, so they must think it’s a reasonable deal. The cost of answering a question has dropped from $0.50 two years ago to just a few cents today, and Jones says they’ll get it to under a cent soon. They’re able to recycle a lot of answers, he says, and they’ve built tools to make it easier for guides to quickly answer most queries.