Not to be left in the dust, Ask.com has recently released their new question and answer App Ask Around. The App, launched exclusively for the iOS platform on March 4th, 2011, combines the question and answer format with the possibility of local interaction. The question is: do we really need or want this kind of immediate locality?
Joining the recently released Crowdbeacon – a question and answer App which allows users to ask questions about services based on their location – the Ask Around App capitalizes on the question and answer format with a heavier emphasis on locality between users, as opposed to locality between businesses. Just released, in order to truly work, the App will require a large number of users. Moreover, these users need to be in the same general geographical area for the App to function the way it’s supposed to. Spokesperson for Ask.com says that Ask’s previous application had 500, 000 users.
Let’s say that the App can recruit enough users to work; here’s the concept. You’re sitting at a bus stop, and the bus is running late. You’re bored. You can use the App to see if there are any conversations happening in your geographical location and choose to join. Or, you could start your own conversation by posing a question, and hoping to receive a thread of comments from users nearby. This question could be anything from “does anyone know what time the next 506 bus comes?” to “Why does it always rain in this part of the city?”. While the App could certainly be used for informational purposes, it’s more likely to be a combination between a Twitter thread and a chat room. If you were seeking information, there are quicker, more efficient and more reliable services available.
Currently, Ask Around’s biggest competition comes from Yobongo – a similar application launched for iPhone that allows people to chat with those nearby. Yobongo was launched by Calbet Elston and David Kasper, of Justin.tv, and they both officially left their positions at Justin.tv. to pursue working at Yobongo full time. Unlike Ask Around, the Yobongo App doesn’t work on a question and answer format; instead, when people sign up for the App, it places them in a chat room, based on their location.
The question is: do we really need this kind of locality? On the one hand, it might be neat to be watching a sport’s game, and simultaneously participating in a thread of conversation about the game itself, or what’s happening in the stadium. On the other hand, whatever happened to talking to the people around you?
Obviously, the purpose of the App isn’t to engage in a conversation with the person beside you on the bus, but, that could happen. Perhaps, in theory, people could start a thread on the App and forge a real life connection, but will they? If the idea of social media is to connect people, at what point does locality disconnect users not just from the real world bust also from each other?