Stack Overflow Launches Niche Q&A Site: How Will Quora Handle Competition?

With this week's launch of Stack Exchange - another specialized Question and Answer website - Quora faces its first serious contemporary competitor.

Not since Jeopardy premiered have question and answers been so popular. With the widely reported explosion of Quora – the Silicon Valley Question and Answer site that exploded in popularity in late 2010 – it was only a matter of time before other similar websites started popping up. With this week’s launch of Stack Exchange – another specialized Question and Answer website – Quora faces its first serious contemporary competitor.

Stack Exchange is the newest question and answer website. A network of 33 sites on various topics, the service has been testing for over six months. It also has more than a million users, and its user numbers are up 50% from November. CEO Joel Spolsky claims, “This is a specialist’s site. We’re going to be the reference section of the library, where you can reach experts and get definitive answers.” Stack will attempt to add a topic a week to its database in the coming months. Moreover, Stack structures both “vertically and horizontally”, dividing into two main categories: one which allows anyone to ask and answer questions, and one in which only “experts” answer questions.

Stack’s assertion that, “[Stack] will be a specialist’s site. We’re going to be the reference section of the library, where you can reach experts and get definitive answers” appears to be striking a chord not only with users, but also with investors. In 2010, Stack raised $6 million from Union Square ventures.

Question and Answer sites, like Ask.com and Yahoo Answers, have been around for years; however, both Quora and Stack claim to offer specialized content with experts answering questions. As Spolsky states, “Our motto is to link experts together, so they can get definitive answers on specific topics…if you are a math researcher at UC-Berkeley, you’re not going to go to Yahoo Answers”.

Stack Overflow
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This may be true; however, according to Doug Leeds CEO of Ask.com, there is room for competition in the Question and Answer market; “there is a lot of interest because people have a discrete need to have questions answered.” Leeds is correct; the sudden popularity of Question and Answer sites suggest people still crave finding quick and reliable information. More importantly, Leeds wad dead on when he implied that Ask.com shouldn’t be threatened by Stack Exchange; it’s Quora that should be concerned.

Established sites have carved out their identity and have a solid base of users. They have also already beat competitors and showed impressive longevity, existing, in Ask.com’s case, for over a decade. Stack and Quora, however, still have a lot to prove, particularly as they move beyond the initial publicity blitz. While they are the first two major sites out of the gate, they certainly won’t be each other’s only competitors. In coming months, each site will not only have to respond to rapid growth, they will also be forced to quickly determine their identity. It is easy to show how Quora and Stack are different from older Question and Answer models, but the biggest question both sites will have to answer in coming months is: How are Quora and Stack different from one another?