ChaCha, the US-based text message Q&A service has announced it's launching in the UK.
For the cost of a standard text message it will provide you with a human-generated answer to any question. What's the weather like in Dubai? How many goals did Linekar score? What book was Castle reading in episode seven? Who was top of the charts the week of 17th August 1973? Where's the nearest pizza place? Any such trivial or more critical question can be asked. Just text your question to 85852.
ChaCha joins a number of other mobile phone Q&A services competing in the UK but it's the first to offer the facility at such a low price. Indeed, with many contracts offering hundreds of free text messages, the service is essentially free at point of sale. In contrast, competitors such as 63336 can charge up to £1.50 for a single question.
ChaCha was created by Scott A Jones, and launched in the USA in 2008, and has to date been asked nearly 2 billion questions at a rate of 3 million a day. To get through this number of questions (presumably there's a fair degree of automation going on as well) the company uses 60,000 home-working fact finders, and for the UK launch it's been recruiting UK fact finders as well. It's powered by the global mobile transaction hub, OpenMarket, which enables the service to be delivered so cheaply.
The service is live now and should be available on the vast majority of phones.
So, if the pub quiz wasn't already severely compromised by the proliferation of smartphones and services like Shazam, this could well be the final death knell. Either that or they'll have to start patting everyone down before they get in!