About a week ago, word started getting out that Facebook is beta testing a new “killer app” called Facebook Questions. For beta testers, the Questions feature appears in the left-hand column just below Events and Photos. It lets you ask and answer questions to and from your extended circle of friends.
A few days ago, Facebook opened up the private beta further and is now taking applications for anyone who wants to enter the beta. Facebook is taking its Questions product very seriously. “Help us build the future of Facebook,” reads the title of the page.
It puts the Questions product on par with Photos and Events.
As a beta tester, your job will be to ask great questions and provide great answers about your favorite topics. Economics? Skydiving? Relationships? Mexican Restaurants? It’s up to you. You’ll be the first person outside of Facebook to use this product. Your expert writing will be seen by tens of millions of people — including job recruiters. And we’ll bring our best beta testers out to California to tour Facebook headquarters and meet the team.
All you have to do to become a beta tester is submit three sample questions, such as
- What are the main differences between Google Chrome and Internet Explorer?
- What are women looking for in a relationship?
- What methods has BP tried to clean up the oil spill?
In one fell swoop, Facebook is about to take on Yahoo Answers, Google (via recently acquired Aardvark), LinkedIn (notice the reference to job recruiters?), and Quora. Q&A sites drive massive pageviews. It is an area Facebook can no longer ignore. People already use Facebook informally to ask questions across their social network from time to time. It is a type of status update, if you think about it. The Questions feature will bucket all of these together, spread them across your friends and their friends, and make them searchable.
The advantage Facebook could have in the Q&A space is that to the extent that you find answers from your extended social network, questions can become the start of deeper conversations and spur new relationships. But breaking it out as a separate feature raises some new questions. Will every major type of status update now become its own feature on Facebook (like Photo and Event updates do)? And, if so, what’s next?