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Jul 27 2009   3:24PM GMT

Overheard – Origins of Amazon Mechanical Turk

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

jason-pontin “Mechanical Turk began life as a service that Amazon itself needed…Amazon had millions of Web pages that described individual products, but it wanted to weed out the duplicate pages.”

Jason Pontin, Artificial Intelligence, With Help From the Humans

Amazon makes money from Mechanical Turk by charging companies 10 percent of the price of a successfully completed HIT. For simple HITs that cost less than 1 cent, Amazon charges half a cent. ChaCha intends to make money the way most other search companies do: by charging advertisers for contextually relevant links and advertisements.

If you haven’t heard about ChaCha yet, it’s a free voice search service for mobile phones. It’s interesting that one of ChaCha’s investors is Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment firm of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.  According to marketing literature:

ChaCha, a free mobile answers service, allows users to call 1-800-2ChaCha™ or text questions to ChaCha (242242™) on mobile phones and receive answers within minutes. Its unique advertising solutions provide pay-for-performance opportunities for advertisers to precisely target and embed their messages within millions of text conversations.

Aha! So maybe Mechanical Turk isn’t so much about enterprise search — it’s really about mobile voice search!  Makes sense. Amazon would have a revenue stream by serving highly targeted ads along with the search results.

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