Earlier today, Quora got a nice write-up on Fast Company. The article talks about all the buzz the Q&A startup has been getting (something we’re well aware of). But at the bottom of the post, something interesting happened.
“Despite the company’s reported $86 million valuation, and over 500,000 registered users as of today,” Fast Company wrote, citing a Quora thread that noted that the profile image numbers had passed 500,000. Obviously, that’s a nice milestone, and another Quora thread popped up to celebrate it. The only problem? Quora hasn’t actually hit that milestone yet. How do I know? Quora, of course.
Within a half hour of the 500K congratulations post going up on Quora, it was being updated in realtime describing why the numbers Fast Company was citing were wrong. Specifically, investor Matt Cohler cited co-founder Charlie Cheever saying, “The numbers below are incorrect. See Charlie’s comments in the notes on this page.” Cheever had actually noted that back in early November that the methodology people were using to calculate user numbers was no longer correct. This is a similar issue that has occurred with Twitter, Foursquare, and others in the past.
Of course, if Fast Company had just been reading TechCrunch in December, they would have known this. Seemingly, the only answer you can’t get on Quora is how many users are actually on Quora.
We also went the old school route and reached out to Cheever just to clarify. “That number is wrong. I just sent a note to the author of that piece letting her know that,” he writes. “I also tried to make it more clear on that question that the methodology described there is faulty,” he continues.
So all at once you can see both one potential problem and also the actual potential of Quora. There’s so much information flowing through the system, that it’s getting hard for all of it to be monitored even if it has already been fact-checked. But when something is wrong, it gets corrected in minutes before your very eyes. Again, this is reminiscent of Twitter and blogging before that. Information appears to be more like living organisms than static words on a page.
So how many users does Quora actually have? Since Quora is no help there, we’ll do the old school way: deduction. If you believe that Quora changed the way they handle those IDs sometime in October, it seems likely that they have something over 200,000 but less than 500,000 users now. If my friend requests (and those of several others I’ve talked to) are any indication over the past few weeks, it has got to be inching up towards the latter.