The Q&A market, which is seemingly getting more crowded by the day, may soon have a new competitor in Facebook. The social network is “testing a new feature that allows users to ask questions to the Facebook community,” the company tells us. A spokeswoman says it’s only available to a “very small percentage of users.” AllFacebook, which first spotted it in the open, has some screenshots, which make it appear as though users would be invited to add answers to seemingly random questions (perhaps posed by their friends?) which would show up above the ads on their home page.
An entry to the market by Facebook would likely have a negative impact on many of the newer Q&A startups, since they have typically been emphasizing their own “social” features, to contrast themselves with heavyweights like Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Answers and WikiAnswers. Just last month, Quora, a Q&A startup founded by several early Facebook employees, including former CTO Adam D’Angelo, raised $11 million in a round of funding at an $86 million valuation. One of Quora’s distinguishing features is that its users must use their real identities when they respond to questions — something that also is an element in Facebook’s system.
GigaOm notes that Facebook’s Blake Ross went on Quora today to answer the question, “Why is Facebook creating a Q&A product to compete against Quora?” In his response, Ross says that Facebook’s test has nothing to do with “all this recent outside activity” in the market and instead is because the social network is now well staffed enough to work on additional projects like this one. “One of our app teams is charged with experimentation and we decided to pursue this vision of real-time Q&A now that the resources were finally in place,” he writes.