When word first got out that Facebook was working on a question & answer service, the immediate reaction was that it would a “Quora killer.” That’s an obvious and sexy statement to make since Quora was built by former Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo and engineer/manager Charlie Cheever. And it’s even more sexy since Benchmark invested in the service at a $86 million valuation (and it’s not out of private beta yet). But Blake Ross, the Facebook employee (with quite the illustrious history of his own) behind the project quickly poured water on those fires — on Quora, naturally.
So what is Facebook Questions? If it’s not a Quora-killer, is it an Aardvark (recently purchased by Google) eater? Or is it something else? Only those lucky enough to have access to the very limited test know for sure. So we got the story from one of them.
Sid Yadav, a Facebook users in New Zealand, has been using Facebook Questions within his Facebook social circle for the past month or so. His take-away? It could be “the next killer app of Facebook,” he says.
He also confirms that it feels different from Quora because it “seems to be more intimate/fun/terse than intellectual/useful/detailed.” Here’s his full run-down in his own words — complete with pictures of what it looks like. Notably, you’ll see that “Questions” has been added to left-column of Facebook, where many of Facebook’s main functions lay. Yes, this is going to be a big product.
For the past month, I’ve been a part of what seems like a secret beta of Facebook Questions, as have most people in my network. If its recent push to making status updates a front-facing feature was a swipe against Twitter, and its planned check-in feature is one against Foursquare, this seems to be the equivalent to a Q&A site like Quora or Aardvark.
In the sidebar, among ‘News Feed’, ‘Messages’, ‘Events’ and ‘Photos’, there’s a ‘Questions’ tab. Clicking on it brings up a page full of questions and answers. At the top is a “What do you want to know?” box, akin to its “What’s on your mind?” status update box. I can ask a question, and attach what’s known as ‘question topics’ to it. These topics, Facebook claims, will “show your questions to the right people” — a feature that is at the crux of a service like Aardvark.
The question then appears on my friends’ (and appropriate answerers’) ‘Questions tab, which they can then answer. So far, some popular questions among my network include “Who is your favorite glee character?”, “Why do people still push when the door says pull?”, and “Where do people get good massages in Christchurch [New Zealand]?”.
Unlike Quora, which is in private beta right now and one of which I’ve been also a part of, the quality of questions and answers on Facebook Questions seems to be more intimate/fun/terse than intellectual/useful/detailed. When rolled out at a large scale, I can definitely see it becoming potentially the next killer app of Facebook. Whenever I have something to know I think my friends can help me with, or even a fun ‘Pirates or ninjas?’ discussion, I’d look no further than Facebook Questions. It may end up taking off among Facebook’s more intellectual users whose utility of the service is slightly beyond operating a virtual farm and tagging party photos.