Just when you thought Google had this whole search engine malarkey stitched up tighter than prison mailbags along comes a new contender to offer the same service but with something of an added personal touch. Over the years we’ve all had a myriad of different search providers sat as the default pages on our browsers, whether that be Yahoo, MSN, Google or the old school search merchants that nobody seems to use anymore like AltaVista or Lycos. The list goes on…

So what could the proverbial new kid on the block Cha Cha offer if the aforementioned giants like Google are giving us a quite frankly blinding service? Well, what if when you put in a search query you didn’t connect to a faceless server which acted upon your query in a logistical manner bringing you a series of results that might have what you need, but buried in the depths of a myriad of related queries.

What if when you asked a question you were connected to a person who allowed you to express a query in a more human fashion? Instead of the usual “DVD burning + software + PC + free” you could ask a real question like “I’m looking for some free software for my PC that allows me to burn DVD’s”.

Being the egotistical swine I am I decided to do a search for myself and asked if I could find “some music by Adrian Carter”, knowing full well where I can be found on the net I figured this would be an ample test of Cha Cha’s facilities.

As I asked the question the left hand side of my browser page was given over to a guide session and I was connected to an operator who was a specialist in music queries (than you MelissaD). It was like an interaction with a friendly telephone services operator as she asked me to define what I was looking for, I was able to reply in a chat service fashion and elaborate a little more on what this “Adrian Carter” guy does. I explained that he has been known to make a little electronic music. So the search began. Admittedly not quite as quick as Google (but then how could it be).

Her first response was an old article on electronic music that I had written for 020.com some time ago, fair comment I thought. I then asked if “he” had a myspace page and lo and behold up came the response I was looking for as well as a listing in Last.FM. Pretty good, even if it was what I was expecting.

I told MelissaD that she been successful and had found what I had wanted which made us both happy and she asked me if there was anything else she could do for me today. I pondered if she could arrange my Internet shopping but thought better of it and thus concluded our transaction.

It would appear that MelissaD is one of a group of 7000 strong “guides” who are helping the browsing population find what they are looking for, taking into account the fact that searching for something on the web despite having come a long way is sometimes a little like finding a needle in a haystack.

It made me think of web users like my father who while having the ability to put together a search himself still might struggle to find something if he was asked to pin his online quest into really specific terms. In essence this could be the search engine that scores big points with people who are perhaps new to computers or more specifically new to the web.

Of course there is also a standard search option which functions in a way that most people will be familiar with and it works well, the same search was if anything a little more thorough than its Google counterpart (admittedly not as direct though) and if I could break my Google desktop habit I think this could be my engine of choice.

According to Cha Cha themselves over time their search engine will become smarter due to the fact that every question is logged into their database and will enable it to cross reference queries in a more efficient, more “human” manner.

While experienced users will no doubt enjoy the novelty of what Cha Cha has to offer if they know their way around the web I daresay they would be able to find what they want (and if they are that savvy they could always sign up to become a guide). However I suspect for all of us there will be an instance where a guide could come in handy.

As a whole it’s an interesting concept that adds a clever new spin to potentially the most important tool the web has to offer and next time you are about to take Google out for a spin it might just be an idea to point your browser somewhere new and find yourself a little help when you need it the most.