ChaCha set to dump T-Mobile over ‘Twitter tax’

I have worked as a guide for ChaCha off and on since January. The premise of the service is simple. Users text questions to the short code CHACHA (242242) and receive realtime SMS responses from live, independently contracted ‘guides’ around the clock. Virtually any question can be asked, and answers — many of which require efficient online research by real human beings — are usually provided within minutes. The service is provided for free to all users and is funded by serving targeted mobile advertisements to them.

Notwithstanding certain issues such as usage limits and inaccurate or outdated information, ChaCha has seen phenomenal growth in use and popularity since it first unveiled its text answering service in January 2008. Currently, they rank sixth in volume of SMS messages sent in the US after Twitter, Facebook, ESPN, 4INFO, and Fox. According to recent figures revealed by the company, “ChaCha has more than 15 million monthly unique users for whom we answer over 2 million questions every day.”

A text messaging service like ChaCha relies on fixed pricing per unit time to remain sustainable, let alone profitable. This is what the nation’s fourth largest carrier is proposing to change on October 1 of this year. T-Mobile is looking to charge all businesses $0.0025 per text sent instead of a flat fee per month. This so-called ‘Twitter tax’ amounts to variable and likely untenable costs to SMS services that send text messages in bulk.

The result is that ChaCha — and some if not all other companies listed above — will pull its services from T-Mobile entirely to remain cost effective. This could potentially be a serious inconvenience for T-Mobile’s existing customers, and may deter others from signing with a carrier that already has problems gaining subscribers. 4INFO also reminds us that “Verizon Wireless considered a similar charge in 2008, but relented under consumer and industry pressure, helping to enable the vibrant mobile service programs that exist today.”

Source: ChaCha via TechCrunch