Big Change At Hunch; Caterina Fake Predicts "Traffic Will Plummet," But Quality Will Rise

Decision site Hunch is making a big change today which co-founder Caterina Fake predicts will cut traffic in half, at least, but improve the overall experience for those who remain. The site will no longer be open to users who don’t log in, although you can log in with your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Hunch helps people make decisions by taking new users through a long series of questions so that it can build a “taste profile” and recommend the best answer on any given topic. When users are not logged in, Hunch doesn’t get the benefit of knowing what recommendations they have served up in the past or what kind of preferences that person may have. Results or logged in users are 20 to 40 percent better than for non-logged in users, she tells me.

I caught up with Caterina at the Wired Business Conference yesterday, where she told me the news (see video). I asked here what she thinks the impact will be on the site’s overall traffic. “I think traffic will plummet,” she says, “but users who are using the product will have a significant lift in the quality of results.”

It is a risky move. Hunch started to see decent growth about a year ago after it removed the requirement to answer 20 Questions before being able to get any benefit from the site. Now it is going back to that model because it produces better data. According to comScore, the site grew sixfold over the past year to 750,000 unique U.S. visitors. Fake told me the internal numbers were about 1.5 million visitors.

The more that Hunch can turn answering questions into an actual game, the less it would seem like a chore. For instance, I’d love to know how my friends answered similar questions or what types of personality buckets my friends fall into based on their answers.