Thursday, 6 January 2011

Quora: New Craze or Just a Phase?

At the start of a new year, there's nothing we love more than a hot new trend that's got everyone (on my Twittersphere anyway so it seems) talking.

Just as 2010 saw the retirement (once again) of a 14 year old Jeeves and an announcement from Ask that it is moving away from the search market, 2011 has seen a surge in popularity for Quora a question and answer site promising to create both answers and a community.

Quora, though created in June 2009, has found itself quickly thrust into the spotlight as we enter the second decade of the noughties. With Techcrunch revealing signups to the website surged in late December, the Telegraph announcing the site will be bigger than Twitter (still sitting pretty at 190 million users worldwide) and the Guardian labelling it the 'hottest question and answer' site (though not convinced that's a massive claim to fame as beyond Yahoo Answers I struggle to think of any other).

The network, which sounds more like a vegan-friendly food rather than the 'next big thing' was valued early last year at around $86million - an amount that is sure to have risen since then.

So, allowing curiosity to get the better of me, I have spent the last day or so getting to know the new 'must-be-on' network.

First things first - Quora makes sense as a network. Just as Twitter offers users a lighter way to enjoy emptying thoughts (like a blog on an extreme diet if you will), Quora allows the user to associate questioning and search with social.

Google revealed out of its several hundred million search enquiries received each day, up to 31% of queries contain a question therefore it has to be said that Quora has tapped into a substantial demand and opportunity ideal for someone looking to expand the social sphere and take on Facebook.

Secondly, we know without a doubt, that the next year or so could be make or break for the network.

Most people within the UK know of Facebook, Twitter (they may not be on it but will know of it) and LinkedIn.

They are all successful social networks engaging a broad audience constantly inventing new features and elements to ensure they evolve with their users and are not left behind (Facebook Places, New Twitter and LinkedIn Company Pages - all new ideas that were implemented in 2010.)

However, there are plenty of social network casualties that will probably never see 2012 with Yahoo set to close delicious, micro-vlogging website 12 seconds shut down and Bebo's future in serious doubt.

There are also networks that at one time pioneered the social sphere but now look set to stay firmly lost in translation. Friends Reunited, launched back in 2000, is now pretty redundant to the younger generation (I asked my Facebook-obsessed 13 yr old cousin to describe the network and was greeted with a blank face) and other 21st century phenomena that now struggle to recover a clear position and identity in the post-Zuckerberg world we now live in (MySpace, ahem).

But moving past the old and onto the new - Quora is certainly worth a dabble. It's readily available and caters to the impatient by allowing the user to sync to their Twitter or Facebook network (Google Buzz take note) causing an instant feed of intriguing content that you can't help but look at/answer.

Don't get me wrong this is not a network fuelled by originality - just as Facebook asks 'what's on your mind' and Twitter allows you to divulge 'what's happening' - Quora invites you to 'add a question' allowing users to feedback with comments, thanks or a 'not helpful' (my personal favourite!) a concept that isn't dissimilar to the ever-web infecting 'like' button.

Having said that, this is still a network that remains worth a look and should (for anyone within the social industry) be worth keeping an eye on.

As for me and the network - I know, for now at least, that I still have plenty of questions.


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