Quora’s bold venture into the questions and answer market has been carefully strategized, especially because it has learned from other Q&A sites. Yahoo Answers is the dominant Q&A site, but lacks the sociability that Quora holistically encompasses. Other competitors include Formspring and even Facebook has jumped into the space with Facebook Questions.
How Quora works is simple. Users ask questions they want answers to, in a manner similar to tweeting, which are then aggregated in a Facebook-like news feed. People can also follow other people, follow topics as well as questions. Questions and answers can be voted on in real time Digg-style and displayed in a Google Wave style display.
Quora, like other popular sites, has had its share of growing pains, experiencing slow connectivity near the end of 2010. Scalability has been difficult because when someone adds an answer or updates one, others see the info in real time. On Dec 28th Quora saw 5-10x the avg. activity they ted to see, according to Quora engineer Albert Sheu’s response on a question on Quora.
Apparently the company moved quickly to get rid of inefficient code, upgrade servers and use Amazon’s EC2 system to start performing properly. Following the spike in traffic in Dec has been the growth spurt this week that’s creating 2x the signups as December. Quora’s success isn’t going unnoticed as, among others, Google’s head of design, Irene Au, made positive comments about the young startup:
I admire Quora’s design. That’s been a very successful design, not only visually, but also for interaction in terms of how they have built in mechanics for ensuring high quality content. For a Q&A site, it didn’t turn into a Yahoo Answers with spammy answers. There’s a lot of really rich high quality content there. It’s one of my favorite sites to visit on a daily basis now. Kudos to Rebekah Cox and the team there.
Some have even called Quora the future of blogging while some see it more akin to Twitter. Yet the company’s focused appeal on tech will most probably never attract mainstream users like Twitter has. That’s not to say that questions on Quora are limited to tech as you can ask questions on any topics. Quora’s rise should remain steady and organic and let people provide in-depth commentary to questions. Others like Foursquare have been compared to Twitter but the reality set in as Pewinternet revealed that only 4 percent of online Americans use location-based services.
Despite the variety of analysis, one thing is for sure: Quora hosts a wealth of information rich data that’s attracting attention from the entire tech world. One can find themselves reading candid answers from employees and ex-employees about various companies that aren’t limited to 140 characters. Former AOL Chairman and CEO Steve Case has also been hyperactive on Quora disclosing interesting information regarding AOL
Although Quora is young, it could potentially serve as an attractive acquisition for Google who is currently in the trenches trying to figure out ‘social’ before it is too late. The site still has some of its own UI issues to address, however, as some of the features such as asking questions through a search bar are unintuitive. Will Quora continue to rise in the face of stiff competition including Facebook?