You’ve likely seen friends posting links to Quora in their Twitter feeds and on Facebook by now and wondered what the latest fuss was about. You’ve probably even heard people call Quora the next Twitter. And while Quora may not be that, Twitter and Facebook have certainly played a large part in driving its growth.
It’s not a social network itself, but more of a complementary platform. In simplest terms Quora is a community-curated question-and-answer site intended as a growing knowledge base. One of its stated principles is to be “a great resource for people who want to learn.” It draws on crowd-sourcing to collect knowledge more in the manner of Wikipedia than to allow people to communicate like Twitter. Sure Quora uses some of the vocabulary of Twitter: You can “follow” people and topics and @mention them and it definitely uses your social graph, both to answer questions and perpetuate itself.
You know you are not on Twitter anymore when pointless cleverness is frowned upon. “Pithy, witty Answers are cute — but useless. Yes, we all get that you’re brilliant and funny. Take it back to Twitter,” wrote one member in a sort of Quora primer for new members.
Another Twitter mainstay, pimping yourself, will have more dire consequences. Quora has moderators and allows its members to vote answers to questions up or down. If you attempt to use Quora to promote your business or yourself with link spam you’ll be banned.
When you start out on Quora you are asked (as you are nearly everywhere these days) to connect your account with Facebook and Twitter. The platform uses your social graph to show you questions asked or answered by people you are connected to or answers they may have voted up or followed.
Like any community driven endeavor, the success and usefulness of Quora depends on its community. And it’s got a pretty strong one. Unlike the sometimes half-assed responses you get from your friends when you ask questions on Twitter, answers on Quora can come from some pretty big guns. For instance, the question “What is the process involved in launching a start-up at SXSW?” has answers from both Twitter founder Evan Williams and Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley.
Answers and questions have been getting passed around Twitter and Facebook drawing many new people to try Quora and build it.
According to the online tracking company Hitwise, traffic referred to Quora from Facebook.com and Twitter.com has been building over the last few months, hitting a critical peak recently. Referrals from the two social networks were up 451% in January 2011 versus Sept 2010. Nearly 10 percent of Quora’s traffic came through either Facebook or Twitter in January.