Formspring Hits 4 Billion Answers; Transforms Into Content Curator With “Smile Sort”

Last month, social Q&A site Formspring launched its first user directory, called “Favorites,” to highlight some of its most popular users. The move was meant to complement the recently launched “Formspring Interests” initiative, which allowed users to add up to six interests (Music, Sports, Fashion, etc.) to their profiles. Those interests were then mirrored in “Favorites”, as top users were broken down into each category.

As Sarah wrote at the time, Formspring has been making an effort to slowly build out the connections between its users by offering “who made you smile” and “who you responded to” categories to user profiles, but it is also going up against Facebook by becoming a “network built around users’ interests.” Of course, the site has to contend with the billions of “Likes” accumulated on Facebook, which compose its own interest graph, and it has done so with “Smiles,” Formspring’s equivalent of “Likes.”

Today, the service is adding another feature to its functionality, a tool called “Smile Sort” that aims to transform the service into a content curator. Users will be able to sort responses by the number of “”smiles,” in order to bring the best content to the top of content streams (as seen in the image below). The new feature allows users to see their top smiled responses, check out top responses from other Formspringers, as well as view the top smiled responses to a question they’ve asked multiple people at once. When viewing responses to questions, users simply click through to the “All Responses” page and click “top smiled responses” to see the top responses instead of the most recent ones.

Along with “Smile Sort,” Formspring also recently gave users control over how they “follow” or are followed on the service. The “Public Follow” option allows users to follow people publicly or continue following privately, a feature (and choice) that sets Formspring apart from the other big social networks. The service also made follower counts public to not only see who’s following you, but how many people are following you, intended to let Formspringers get to know their community better and ask more direct questions to their followers, as well as curtail broad “spam” questions.

With all of these additional features, Formpsring certainly is beginning to look a lot like full-fledged social network, and it’s new Smile Sort is a welcome addition for users looking to find the best responses to questions they’ve asked or that their friends have given. But, really, these new features add layers of organization and content curation that weren’t part of the Formspring experience a year ago. The methods of content curation now have more meaning when they’re viewed on top of the interest-centered network the service is building thanks to “Formspring Interests” and “Favorites”.

It also helps that the service has now racked up 28 million users and sees over 30 million uniques per month. What’s more, more than 4 billion responses have been tallied on the site to date.

The new access to celebrity accounts, public follow counts, and photo support within Q&A are certainly turning Formspring into a service that can’t easily be discounted among the social networks. Maybe if it can reduce the spam, we’ll be hearing a lot more about Formspring in 2012. Let us know what you think.