Back in January, I wrote about a new Q&A service called Formspring.me that allowed users to have their friends “ask them anything”: sign up for a profile, and anyone can submit a question that you can choose to answer at your discretion. At the time the service had around one million users. Fast forward six months: the service now has over 12 million accounts and users have asked each other 700 million questions. According to Quantcast, it’s the 61st most visited site in the United States. Formspring has also just launched a preview of its API in private beta, which you can request an invite to here.
As it has taken off, Formspring has started to draw the attention of some major brands — last month, Fiat used it to help launch the Uno in Brazil, and Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort regularly takes to the site to answer fan questions (he’s responded to over 3,000 of them). Red Bull has just launched a new page. As with Facebook Pages, Formspring gives brands a relatively easy way to engage directly with their fans — this could well be the start of a new trend.
The history of Formspring is interesting — it actually started off over four years ago as a service that makes it easy to generate web forms of all sorts. Last summer, the company noticed that a significant number of users were using the service to build out Q&A forms, which was driving a lot of traffic but was also hurting their conversion metrics (none of these users were looking for a premium product). So the company decided to launch a little side project at Formspring.me in November 2009 that would cater specifically to these individuals. A month and a half later, the service had a million users. Now that it’s taking off, the ‘old’ Formspring has been renamed Formstack, and Formspring.me now has an office of 14 based in San Francisco.
The appeal of Formspring.me is obvious: it lets you talk about yourself at great length without coming off as a total narcissist (of course, the success of the service relies on your vanity). Better yet, you can optionally allow users ask their questions anonymously. This anonymity has led to some issues though, spurring reports of teenagers harassing each other through the service. The Formspring team is well aware of these problems, and plans to launch a suite of new features to address them in the near future.