Quora vs. StackExchange: Why, Joel, Why?

The Q&A land rush is on. Quora, of course, has been hyped to the moon, and not without reason. Fortune magazine recently profiled five more Q&A sites, and three new ones just launched: Cloudy, where your friends answer your questions via SMS; Setlr1, which is like Twitter for yes/no questions; and InboxQ, Q&A on Twitter. Is this a bubble full of copycats doomed to wither into Yahoo Answers Redux? Maybe – but I don’t think so. I think there’s something important going on here, and it’s more than just questions and answers. I think these are the first skirmishes in the reputation wars.

The identity wars are already over. Facebook won, Twitter snagged the silver medal, and OpenID lost. Log In With Facebook and their associated Open Graph have succeeded so thoroughly that Facebook increasingly defines users’ online identities across a whole panoply of sites. But who will define and codify our online reputations? That’s a question whose answer will matter – a lot.