Forget about Facebook, Google. Start fearing Quora.

March 23, 2011 § 8 Comments

By: Dan Kaplan

“Quora will be the most valuable company produced post 2005.”
-Keith Rabois, COO of Square.

In an age when Zynga and Groupon (both founded after 2005) have rocketed their ways to multi-billion dollar valuations within relative bats of an eye, Keith Rabois’s bold prediction, captured forever in the databanks of the tweetstream, may sound like the spasms of a deranged mind.

Quora? More valuable than Zynga’s Social Gaming Colossus or Groupon’s Globespanning Juggernaut of Daily Deals? A fucking Q&A site?

Yes.

Compared to Zynga and Groupon, Quora’s path to maniac glory will not be as shit-your-pants fast, nor will it be as clear a ride. But as the dust from the coming age of the internet settles, Marc Pincus and Andrew Mason will look upon Quora from their billionaires’ thrones and they, too, shall despoil their underwear in awe.

Quora, you see, is not exactly what it seems.

Just as Foursquare is actually a method of collecting data on your real-world movements masquerading as a check-in game, Quora is actually a database of human knowledge and experience that happens to look like Q&A. The interface is just the mechanism Rebekah Cox and her team have designed to convince users to pour the contents of their brains into the cloud and convince other users to rank them. Should the company manage to reach beyond Silicon Valley, delve broadly and deeply into brains in every vertical and figure out how to accurately evaluate the quality of their contents, Quora will make the mass sale of virtual goods and daily deals look like buckets of chilled piss.

Commentators often reference Wikipedia as Quora’s closest analog, but they are missing the point. Quora’s team is not trying to build a better Wikipedia. They are trying to build a better Google.

Ah, how the mighty face disruption. Consider an internet on which the best answers to the majority of our queries come not from the vast, increasingly noisy expanses of the world wide web but from the concentrated knowledge and experience of its most articlulate experts. Here, you no longer filter through 10 blue links (or hundreds) to find what you seek; you simply input your query and process the top response. Should you find yourself asking a question no one has asked before, you merely add it to the stream, where it makes its way to the people who can answer it best.

As Google’s algorithms shudder under the weight of spam and SEO, this is the future Quora seems poised to build. In this light, Keith Rabois’ seemingly insane comment about Quora’s value is actually quite far from insane. While Google tweaks its math and tries to figure out how to beat Facebook, Quora is going about its business, slowly building a compelling alternative.

So forget Bing. Forget Blekko. Forget every other “Google killer” you’ve ever seen. In a handful of years, it will be Quora standing over the body, dagger in hand, the blood of Google dripping slowly from the blade.

Sorry, Scoble, Quora is not your playground

January 30, 2011 § 86 Comments

By: Dan Kaplan

“This used to be my playground. This used to be my childhood dream. This used be the place I ran to…whenever I was in need.”   -Madonna

So Robert Scoble, it seems you don’t like the heat. In the bygone days of what feels like ten minutes ago, you, the ubiquitous tech evangelist, larger-than-life personality and Rackspace blogger, couldn’t stop gushing about how great Quora was. Was Quora, you asked in the halcyon age of last December, the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years? Of course it was. Back in them days and throughout January, you could post answers to a wide range of questions and your ardent Twitter followers could upvote them en masse and each upvote and congratulatory comment could generate that awesome squirt of dopamine in your brain. And wasn’t it grand?

But, my, how quickly things can change. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Problems of Scaling and Scoble at Quora

January 26, 2011 § 31 Comments

By: Dan Kaplan

You knew it was a new era for Quora when Mashable made a list – “9 Ways to Get More Out of Quora.” The writer in question, a public relations blogger named Heather Whaling, informed the Cashmore constituency that Quora offered rich land, fertile with opportunities to Expand Your Network and Establish Your Expertise. “You may notice,” she wrote “that people will begin to request your input.” The Quora Gold Rush was officially on. 

In the weeks since the influx began, the distribution of brilliance in the Quora feed has precipitously thinned. When I first joined the site, in February 2010, it was like gulping from a firehose of awesome. In January of 2011, it’s like sipping it through a narrow straw: the awesome still ekes through, but I have to work harder to taste it. « Read the rest of this entry »