February 5th, 2007 at 11:33pm
Before Google, there were a number of main search engines…everyone had their favourite, and they all painted a very different picture of the Internet. At one stage my favourite search engine was MetaCrawler, which seemed to do a good job of making sense of the all the different results from the different search engines.
Times have changed, and it seems that these days there are three dominant search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN (they accounted for 94.2% of all search engine referrals to this website last year). I rarely use anything but Google now, and whilst I think that overall it is a very good search engine, there are times when it would be nice to have a human with more knowledge than me of the subject I’m searching for, helping me to find what it is that I’m looking for.
This isn’t a new concept, many search engines have tried it. Ask Jeeves was an attempt at automating it…ask a question in plain English and get an answer…well maybe…didn’t quite work. Google Answers took the human approach, ask a question and set a price for an “expert” to answer it, it worked, except for the fact that most people don’t like paying to search and didn’t bother to use it.
Cha Cha is a relatively new search engine which seems to take the best of both worlds, featuring both the standard search engine, and human “guides” for the tougher searches. The standard Cha Cha search engine is pretty good, the interface isn’t as cluttered as some parts of Google have become, and with Web, News, Images, Video and Audio, it has about all you could really ask for. There are two minor things that bother me about Cha Cha’s standard search though, one being that the only way to start a search is with a web search…you can’t instantly access News, Images, Video and Audio, you can only get to them after starting a search. My second gripe is that the image search wastes a heap of space by only showing the thumbnails down the left hand side of the page, it would be much more efficient if it had a page full of thumbnails.
Cha Cha’s guided search is primarily intended for more difficult searches, where you might struggle to find an answer on your own. It’s completely free to search with a guide, and each guide apparently has a set of broad speciality subjects.
I decided to test Cha Cha’s abilities by searching for some obscure information, the information being the name of the bar that John Kerr and listeners attended before having lunch on his recent Terrigal outing. This is information that I did not place on this website in textual form, it was only in this image and its associated thumbnail. Only having it in an image was going to make it a bit harder to find and require a different set of keywords…searching for the bar itself would be hopeless.
Something about a “John Wesley”, a couple things about Terrigal, and something about listener numbers…so, off to the guide I trotted. After a few moments I was presented with “Jay W.” as a guide.
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After a couple minutes Jay W. presented me with a result. It was a page which contained a lot of references to John Kerr’s Terrigal lunch, and I had to click through to the second page to find the name of the bar (for the record, it was the “Lord Ashley Bar”), but none the less, Jay W. had found the obscure information.
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I think Cha Cha could very easily be the next big search engine…whether or not it will take top spot from Google is another matter, but I think it will join Google, Yahoo and MSN as a big search engine, and will probably be a favourite amongst students who need a bit of help with their assignments.