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Chacha works on the 'guide' system, an MLM process, as each guide profits from the labors of lower-level guides they recruit. Payment is small, and the service is promoted to (for example) at-home moms.
Three recent events deserve mention.
1. Guides are being incentivised to spam forums with a toolbar download URL - it starts immediately unless your browser is secure.
2. They have just received $6million [en.wikipedia.org] in extra funding, including cash from Amazon's Jeff Bezos. I suspect that the 'guides' network is of more interest to Bezos than the 'live search' which remains feeble at best. But time will tell ;)
3. If the non-guided search is selected, they utilize a third party meta-search, which then bungs in a handful of 'sponsored results' among the 'real' results. This can be (and often is) a total Pigs Ear, but presumably finances the whole system.
[edited by: Quadrille at 6:29 pm (utc) on Jan. 8, 2007]
INDIANAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--ChaCha (www.chacha.com), the only real-time human-powered search engine in the world, announced today it received $6 million in private funding in 2006. The ChaCha search system is so innovative that 18 patents have been filed in the first year. The funding was led by Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment firm of Jeff Bezos, with additional participation from Rod Canion, founding CEO of Compaq Computer, and Jack Gill, veteran Silicon Valley investor, founder of Vanguard Ventures and current partner at Maven Ventures.
ChaCha Secures $6 Million in Private Funding from Jeff Bezos, Rod Canion, Jack Gill and Others [home.businesswire.com]
My Norton went into alert mode, and I don't know if it was a wrong URL posted with some bundled apps (or was picked up beforehand), but I ran a check right after and had to delete two threats, including a Trojan.
They'd better put privacy and consent policies in place, crack down on abuses and make an abuse report available for submission on their site to report problems.