5 Emerging Q&A Websites… And Why They're So Popular

From Quora to Stack Exchange and now TED Conversations, question and answers are the biggest social media trend of early 2011. What are the top question and answer social media platforms and why is there a sudden surge of interest in the format?

The question and answer site is not a new development. From Yahoo! Answers to Answers.com, people have been posing and answering questions on the internet for over a decade. However, in the last year, there has been a sudden surge of interest in the format. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the biggest Q&A names.

Quora is probably the biggest brand name in the social media Q&A market. Launched in December 2009 by Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, the site started out as a private social network, but went public in June of 2010. The site boasts high quality content,  with high profile users – particularly in the area of technology and social media.

Stack Exchange is owned and operated by Stack Overflow Internet Services. Stack Exchange has gone through several phases of evolution, starting in 2008 with Stack Overflow and the most recent launch of Stack Exchange 2.0 in April 2010. Unlike Quora, Stack Exchange operates on a network of related sites which are proposed and voted on. The site currently has 14 fully launched sites with another 18 in public beta.

Opinionaided, a New York based app that allows users to get feedback in real time, recently raised $1 million dollars in funding. The App, which allows users to pose questions from “Does this outfit look good?” to “What do you think of this picture of my bedroom?”, has grown significantly in the last nine months, seeing 50 million responses to 600, 000 questions.

Crowdbeacon is a newly launched App, which combines Yelp’s locality with the question and answer format, allowing users to get real time answers to questions regarding their geographical location.

TED Conversations is the most recent addition to the question and answer social media list. TED is best known for gathering thought leaders across a wide range of topics, and is particularly well known for its TED talks. The website is divided into three forums: questions, ideas, and debates. Each topic is given an expiration date (anywhere between 24 hours to two weeks) to help encourage intelligent conversation between members.

These are just some of the platforms launched, and the question is why the sudden interest in question and answer sites? There are of course many possible reasons for this; however, it seems as though there are three main reasons for the sudden increase in the Q&A format: mobile technology, real time appeal, and the opportunity to extend networks.

The first two go hand in hand. From Blackberries and Androids to iPhones, the last few years have seen significant advances in mobile technology. In 2011, not only is technology able to support, faster real time applications, the market demands it. The question and answer format meets this need perfectly, providing micro-blogging style updates that are quick, efficient, and in the moment, and being “in the moment” is essential for social networks. Now that people have the technology to support real time applications, they don’t want to wait for responses. The startups which are doing best are able to meet the needs of users who crave up to the second, instant, communication.

The third, and perhaps greatest draw of question and answer sites, however, is that they are redefining the way social networks are built online. With sites like MySpace and Facebook, there’s an emphasis on creating networks through community. In other words, though there are people with Facebook friends in the 1000’s, the idea is that you are supposed to know people before adding them to your network. The question and answer format breaks this expectation, allowing people to access those outside their inner network. This not only allows easier access to information (like with Crowdbeacon, where you can ask people in the area where the best Italian restaurant is), it also allows people to communicate with experts and professionals who would otherwise be difficult if not impossible to reach.

These factors combined with eager sponsors wanting to get on board with the latest trends means that if you have a question you want answered via social media, 2011 is the year for you.