It was no Quora. Today Facebook finally confirmed it is retiring Questions, which originally launched in July 2010. The Questions Dashboard and option to share a poll to the news feed are being removed. Questions will still be available in Groups and Pages, plus you can look at your old ones but it seems Facebook’s resources are better spent building something else, like, oh I don’t know, search.
Back in mid 2010, there was a lot of talk that Facebook had to launch a Q&A product. People thought Quora was going to explode with popularity and Facebook would miss out on valuable data about the opinions of its users.
When Questions launched it was immediately deemed a Quora-killer. But the topics interface was buggy and confusing. More importantly, the community wasn’t right. Quora grew in a controlled manner, actively trying to attract smart readers and experts in different fields. There was an air of seriousness and attention to quality on Quora that made it a consistently satisfying read.
Facebook users didn’t have the same patience. The quality of answers varied widely. It could have been a great utility for polling friends about subjective questions like what’s their favorite local sushi restaurant or if they wanted to go see a new movie in theaters. But it wasn’t destined to become an evergreen knowledge base.
It wasn’t ever designed to be. Facebook tried to make it lightweight, more about asking friends to answer fun quiz questions or opinion polls by voting on a pre-made set of answers. It’s strength was never getting people to fill in their own long-form responses that others could learn from.
In the end, Questions never seemed to gain traction, or at least I’ve rarely seen a question asked in the last year. Marketing Land has a great discussion of how Facebook has been quietly minimizing the feature over the past few months, including stripping it out of the sidebar bookmarks on the home page
Questions will live on to facilitate decision making in Facebook Groups. “What day should we meet? Vote for the most convenient time.” And Pages will still be able to ask their fans to select their favorite item in their new fashion line. If you go to your profile’s Activity Feed and select Questions in the post type drop-down, you can access your old Questions.
But Facebook confirmed to me that over the next few days it’s pulling the Questions option out of the composer you use to post to the news feed. It will also eliminate the Questions Dashboard where you could browse topics. Facebook says it wants to focus efforts on other things now.
You know where I think that focus is going? Facebook search.
Zuckerberg himself said Facebook was uniquely positioned to answer questions through search. So instead of polling friends about what the best nearby Italian restaurant is, you could just search “best Italian restaurant” on Facebook. By looking at your location plus the Likes and check-ins of your friends and the whole Facebook user base, it could answer your question without ever asking someone directly. And you know sponsored results and other search ads wouldn’t be far behind.