After All Facebook reported this morning that the social networking site is testing a new “Questions” feature, someone turned to Quora, the well-funded Q&A site created by former Facebook execs, to ask, “Why is Facebook creating a Q&A product to compete against Quora?” (Quora is still in private beta so you may not be able to view that page.)
Guess who should turn up but Facebook’s director of product, Blake Ross, saying, “I’ll answer this since I’m involved in the questions prototype at Facebook.” He explains that Questions is an evolution of Facebook’s former Polls product, with the idea of delivering instantaneous results to questions about logistics and recommendations. According to the screenshot on All Facebook, Questions pops up in the ad sidebar on the site — presumably to reach would-be answerers in a questioners’ network in the moment.
Ross opines that tech pundits perceive unnecessary and untrue competitive dynamics with our eagerness to declare that things are killers of other things. He says Facebook’s motivations are anything but anti-Quora:
Facebook’s experimentation in this “space” is actually a direct result of internal circumstances at the company rather than all this recent outside activity. For the last few years, we didn’t have enough engineers to make significant, sustained investments in our applications (e.g. photos and events). Earlier this year, we finally got comfortable enough with our recruiting numbers to reorganize the product engineering group into dedicated application teams of 4-5 people each. That’s why you’re suddenly seeing improvements to applications that haven’t evolved in years, such as our recent launch of higher res photos. 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.
Ross also says that he thinks the Q&A category is misunderstood, since Quora and Aardvark have different focuses, the former a knowledge base and the latter “really fast results for more day-to-day queries.” So it sounds like what he’s saying, if I may, is that Facebook Questions is an Aardvark killer.
Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my bio.