After my recent post about user driven search, it seems at least one company is already on track to deliver such a service. ChaCha is a recently launched search engine that offers both traditional search, and the ability to search with a guide.
The traditional search operates in the same manner we’ve become used to over the years, with the search quality closely matching the level of ask.com. The primary difference I noticed was that sponsored links were found in amongst regular search results, with only a ‘Sponsored By’ reference before the URL. While I’m not a fan of mixing paid links with free, it’s not this area of ChaCha that most users will be interested in.
The ‘Search with a Guide’ option is the most unique part of ChaCha. It provides user driven search results, with an instant chat feature to talk to your guide. The slogan of “People Powered Search” certainly applies here as real people (guides) hand pick relevant results based on your search terms. From personal experience, the results were great and answered precisely what I needed to know. The IM feature to the left of search results is very useful, and allows users to communicate any queries directly with their guide.
As Alex Iskold found out, the guides get paid for this service, and notes there are around 10,000 guides working from home. The guides have a community called the ChaCha Underground where guides can interact and display their recent searches.
Sites like this could offer Google some serious competition in the near future. While ChaCha continues to improve search results, the number of guides will grow, meaning more specialized, targeted results for users. If you’re keen to try this for yourself, visit the ChaCha website and let us know what you think!