What is Quora?

Posted on: June 7th, 2012 by

Quora picks up where Yahoo Answers left off but if you have never experienced Yahoo Answers or AnswerBag, let me explain.  Ask a question, ask any question and that question is categorized and posted for anyone to answer.  Need to know the best restaurant in Northport, NY (where I live) or you need help installing antivirus software, just post your question on one of these sites and members will answer, vote on the best answer and finally, you will select the answer you think is best.  It is not too complicated but as with most of the web, no guaranteeing accuracy or correctness.  But that isn’t the point, the point is you got your answer from a group of people and you get to select what is the best answer.

Quora is a mix of Yahoo Answers and Twitter with a Facebook Login and better organization and a vision to grow the site into a promotes “high quality discourse” said Josh Hannah, one of the investors.  That is a great goal but let’s take a look a little deeper into Quora.

I type in Delray Beach, FL and look up one of the questions and on the side bar, there are related questions related to Delray Beach, FL – what are hidden gems,  what are fun things to do, good restaurants, good restaurants for kids clean public restroom, best bars, nightlife like, how late are places open … I think you get the idea.  Delray Beach, FL is a small town in S. Florida that had to have 20 related questions, almost all related to entertainment and nightlife.  I am going to question where you are going to get the “high quality discourse” from knowing where a clean public restroom is in Delray Beach Florida and the rest of the world.  Next, I typed Israeli Palestinian Conflict as you can certainly get some passionate answers on question related to that topic and there were passionate and intelligent responses on both sides.  Much more aligned to their goals.

So what is Quora then?  Is it answering all questions about Delray Beach, FL or is it opening up conversations about important topics like the Mid-East.  Does Quora really know what they want to be when they grow up or are they simply “allowing” the mindless questions so they can get from point A to point B?

When websites are launched and in early stage growth, they sometimes “turn their heads” to certain things that occur on their site that benefit them but they would rather not have.  Certainly mindless, similar questions fit that category and dilute the brand.  Pinterest just recently cracked down on people generating affiliate revenue using Pinterest because they needed the members and activity so they turned their head for a while as they grew.  Fair enough. If you look deep at the answers to many questions you will see links to other sites within the answer.  That is back-linking and those people that are answering those questions may not be Quora addicts, they likely are trolling for back-links.  It is an easy fix for Quora but for the time being, they need people to ask and answer questions so they aren’t going to alienate anyone.

Quora just raised $50M at a $400M valuation according to TechCrunch but I can not see any revenue model currently in place.   I can see ad revenue potential along with group and forum sponsorship potential but how you come up with a $400M valuation is beyond me.  I see major issues down the road with separating the mundane parts of the site with the truly relevant or thought provoking questions.  I also see a major issue with the integration with Facebook and Twitter and their reliance on those sites for traffic and users becomes enormous.  I didn’t even see an obvious way for me to register directly, only to sign in using my FB or Twitter account (I am sure Mark Zuckerburg is appreciative).

Quora is nice, it is clean and it has integrated so much that the other Q&A websites have left out it will surely continue to grow with all the available cash but as with most websites, eyeballs are key.   There is nothing to stop Yahoo, Answerbag and the myriad of other similar sites from implementing the features that Quora has and those sites already have the eyeballs.  I love the site but I don’t see it being anything more than a moderate player in the Q&A field.

Suggestion for Quora:
Quora, you want to do something to differentiate yourself from the pack, here is my free suggestion (please send me a Quora t-shirt upon implementation).  Control the dialog.  You can use the “What is the best bar” questions to get traffic and eyeballs but control the main dialog.   Start a “Quora Asks” section as the feature of the site.  Categorize it: Politics, Sports, Current Events and you ask the questions.  1. Who Should Mitt Romney Select as VP?, 2. Should Gay Marriage be Legal?, 3. Who will win, the Celtics or the Thunder …  Allow people to vote, to respond, to get rated, to share, to suggest … but focus on the real questions that will actually generate “high quality discourse”.