June 24, 2008

ChaCha Promises to Answer Any Reference Question Any Time

By Anonymous

A new 24/7 service from ChaCha allows cell phone users on the go to ask a wide range of reference questions in conversational English and get answers free of charge. Each question is routed to a human guide who searches the Web for the information and within minutes returns the answer in a text message with a web reference link. The online and mobile search company announced the new voice service in April at CTIA: The Wireless Association's 2008 convention in Las Vegas. At 800-2-ChaCha (800-224-2242), the service works on any mobile phone that supports normal SMS text and voice capability.

"ChaCha's new voice capability pushes the boundaries of mobile 411 beyond its historical name-and-address limitasays Greg Sterling, principal of the consulting firm Sterling Market Intelligence and program director for Local Mobile Search. "It represents a next step in the evolution of the industry from directory assistance to voice search."

Asked if ChaCha represents competition for reference librarians, David Tyckoson, president of ALA's Reference and User Services Association, told American Libraries that people already rely on librarians less for help with finding short, factual results that they can obtain on their own. "What they need a librarian's help with are the more complex searches," he said.

"People can pick up that same cell phone," Tykoson added, "and use it to call their local library, where they can talk to a professional librarian who can help them with any type of question, from the simple to the complex. Both services are free, but the library will not limit you to 160 characters."

ChaCha allows cell phone users on the go to ask a wide range of questions in conversational English and get the answers free within minutes from a real person.

Copyright American Library Association Jun/Jul 2008

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