Yahoo Answers Launches

Yahoo Answers launched this morning. The service allows any Yahoo user to ask any question and get answers and advice from other Yahoo users. The community picks the “best” answer, and everything is archived for search.

There is a product tour available here. A similr service, Wondir, launched earlier this year.

Yahoo Answers is taking a different (and more web 2.0) approach than Google Answers, which charges for answers and relies on paid experts. To incentivize users, Yahoo is creating a points system based on quality and quantity of participation.

There are a number of interesting features built in, including spam flags and RSS feeds for every question. I only have one complaint.

Tagging. Yahoo owns one of the best tagging sites out there – Flickr. And yet they continue to stumble on the tagging issue when launching new products. Shoposphere, for instance, desperately needs tagging (it will be added early next year). In this case, Yahoo Answers requries you to categorize your question under a single pre-defined category, and then choose further pre-defined sub categories.

While this certainly helps structure the data for easier search, it isn’t very useful to the publisher. It would be so much easier if, like Flickr, the person asking the question could tag it with a few descriptive terms. They have an incentive to get it right, and Yahoo would quickly have rich enough data to create a virtual category on the fly as users search or browse through the listings.

Making this a free, community-driven service takes it way beyond Google answers. Take the next step: ditch this impossible to maintain category system and move to tagging and dynamic, on-the-fly taxonomy.