Thursday, September 18, 2008

CNN Story - People vs. Computers

Today, Jacque Wilson posted an article titled "Who gives better answers, people or computers? Ask ChaCha". Thanks for the coverage, Jacque! It is a nice piece and I wanted to comment on a few things in the article...

The title of the article, although catchy, does not correctly characterize what ChaCha does exactly (nor should it necessarily...). What do I mean? I mean we are actually allowing ChaCha's users to get the best possible computer intelligence by leveraging human intelligence. Our software actually learns from our more than 35,000 Guides which allows for a smarter and better experience. So with ChaCha you aren't choosing between humans OR computers - you are getting human intelligence AND computer intelligence perfectly coordinated to provide the answer you need, when you need it, without requiring you to jump through any hoops. With that said, a huge component of the ChaCha magic that keeps our average user coming back about one time every single day comes from our amazing base of knowledgeable Guides.

The interview for this article occurred more than a month ago - an eternity in ChaCha time - so some of the numbers Jacque cites are a bit dated. The release I posted yesterday conveys the momentum we have at ChaCha. One key fact, according to Nielsen Mobile, is that ChaCha is now the fastest growing mobile text search service - growing faster than WAP or text for Yahoo! and Google. 27 million mobile answers and more than a million unique users plus the top innovation award from Frost & Sullivan are the best proof that the ChaCha experience is what mobile users prefer.

The quote from an individual named DeLoach in the SEO space also deserves some feedback:

"With the rise of Internet-equipped mobile phones, specifically the iPhone, why would I go to ChaCha to search for me when I can just do it myself?" DeLoach asked.
Great question! It is one that I hear often. The reality is that much less than one percent of mobile phones in the US are iPhones. The fact is that more than 90% of the more than 250 million handsets in the US are not only not iPhones - They are not even smart phones at all. Further, among those who have smart phones - even iPhones - asking a question and getting an answer with the link to deeper resources supporting the answer is an experience that works much better when you are, say, driving a car or walking to a meeting.

So ChaCha works on virtually ALL PHONES - not just a tiny sliver of the phones that are used by the elite. And for those phones that are souped up - ChaCha makes the experience even better. Just try calling 1-800-2ChaCha while you are driving down the highway to find out what time Florida plays their football game this weekend. Then try a similar question with your mobile browser and you will see just how valuable the ability to ask a question and get the answer can be for you!

With all of that said, the market for mobile search is big and growing rapidly and will be so much more massive than online search that opportunities abound for companies with various solutions to succeed. No doubt the iPhone, Google, etc... have strong mobile business opportunities. We believe ChaCha complements all of them - and our numbers are what tell the real story about what people really want and love.

Thanks again for the coverage, Jacque!


Bjoern said...

In addition to your arguments, I may add: Even, if everybody will have internet access on smartphones in the future, who is really enjoying the effort it even takes today to find quality results and good recommendations among millions of google search results. Webpages are growing even faster than the google algorithms can improve and marketeting expertes become better and better in SEO. Where does that leave us? With people having to enter "Mc Donalds in New York City"-Burger-King+food-advertising+adress...
With chacha or you directly ask people from the region and get personal advice and insider tipps. No search engine will ever be able to deliver this information so personally to your mobile phone.

Brad Bostic said...

Bjeorn I couldn't agree more! I also think a more fundamental issue, as cell phone apps proliferate, will be how to determine which app to use in which scenario. In mobile, it makes the most sense for the user to initiate their interaction with a question and then for the question to be accompanied by a link that will bring you to the most useful sites and / or applications to support the answer.