“The playlist ran out on my computer, and I thought, ‘You know, there’s really no reason why my computer shouldn’t just know what I want to learn next,” he explains. “So that’s what we made.”
— Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard Crimson interview, 2004
Above is the Team page for Synapse, the Pandora-like music recommendation plugin Mark Zuckerberg and former Facebook engineer and Quora founder Adam D’Angelo built in 2002, while they were in high school together. You can access the entire site through the Web Archive here. Aol, Microsoft and WinAmp all expressed interest in buying the WinAmp program and Zuckerberg and D’Angelo reportedly received up offers of up to 2 million dollars, which they famously turned down.
Items in the above image presented without commentary: The fact that high school student D’Angelo is described as being “hung like a horse.” The consistent references to “Programmer Gods” woven throughout the site. The fact that the Synapse slogan is “My brain is better than yours.” The Coolio reference. Whatever “If you hit it and that thing feels deeper, say his name” means (shudder).
Hey, we’ve all written strange things on the Internet, and most of us would have lived our lives differently had we known they would one day be searchable (or in this case, Wayback Machine-able). However, what is most interesting about this Team page is the fact that D’Angelo’s Quora and Zuckerberg’s Facebook are now in direct competition over their respective Q&A products.
And there seems to be some contention over just how friendly this competition is: Facebook’s Director of Product Blake Ross is the subject of an entire thread on Quora called “The Oct 2010 Blake Ross Quoragate Farrago”where there is much speculation over exactly why he was unable to login to Quora and why his account there was deleted in early October.
There’s also lot of talk on Quora AND Facebook Questions about a possible dispute between Facebook and Quora, with one thread accusing Facebook of blocking Quora users from gaining access to Questions over the summer.
Ross tells TechCrunch that this is not the case and that, “We don’t feel animosity toward Quora. It’s a terrific product. I worked closely with all of the founders in the past”. I wish the media would stop trying to turn Silicon Valley into TMZ.”
Ross also tells TechCrunch that whatever happened with his Quora account has “been resolved.” Yet he still doesn’t know what exactly happened to his account. Busy Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who recently asked his first Facebook Question, hasn’t been active on Quora since January 2009.
No matter what Quora or Facebook Questions thread you subscribe to, the reality is that Facebook Questions, if rolled out to all users and executed correctly, could kill Quora. The Facebook Questions beta currently has one million users, while the Quora site has around 155K (very passionate) users.
Facebook wins the numbers game by default, but many hold that Quora retains a better user experience in terms of quality of answers and a strong community — So it remains to be seen which former Synapse co-founder will ultimately be “the king of the spreadsheets,” at least in the Q&A space.