New Trend: Q&A Websites Hype Like Quora

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It’s said that a new web giant is born once every five years, and after the recent success seen by Facebook and Twitter, it is really hard to imagine something better, and more powerful. But question-and-answer sites seem to be the new black, according to some. Personally, I don’t buy it, and I am not the only one. The arguments against the hype are pretty common sense – among them, the “war on spam” explained very articulately by Vivek Wadhwa in a TechCrunch editorial:

How is Quora going to manage hundreds of thousands—or millions—of unruly users, when even the mighty Google seems to be losing the battle for spam?

It’s not. And it is not even going to catch, because it’s not the only dog in the city, despite the fact that it currently has some remarkable power users, like Robert Scoble; and despite the fact that the brains behind the project are former Facebook geeks (Adam D’Angelo, who was previously CTO and VP of engineering at Facebook, and Charlie Cheever, who led Facebook Connect and Facebook Platform). Pretty former Facebook faces are not enough to create the next big thing on the Internet. Some pretty former Google faces attempted, to create the next big search engine – does anyone still remember Cuil?

Quora isn’t going to be a Facebook or a Twitter. It is not likely to even catch up with the current market leaders in the Q&A space— and Yahoo! Answers, argued Mr. Wadhwa.

You see, there’s nothing innovative, or different about Quora – just another niche-specific Q&A website – an honorable attempt to produce something better than noise, but in the end, just that: an attempt. No doubt, the media buzz around many Q&A sites will bring them a relative success and a relatively engaged user database.

There are already enough Q&A sites to challenge Quora, aside and Yahoo! Answers. Among these, Stack Exchange is counting a great deal on its community, and recently reported more than 1.5 million users, up 50% from last November. The community is growing strong, because it has the right focus: there are game development Q&A, science fiction Q&A, Q&A for system administrators, Q&A for expert programmers and they even follow with more mundane topics: Q&A for professional and amateur chefs; Q&A for professional photographers, photo editors, and serious enthusiasts; Q&A for people who want to be financially literate and more.

The cool thing about Stack Exchange is that it aims to work pretty much like Wikipedia – and I already wonder, what’s the monetization model, if someone decides to pump money in this community? There are no ads, no membership fees… nada. The parent company, Stack Overflow does feature advertising, and charges for job listings. Will Stack Exchange follow the same model? And what about the other darling of the tech media hype, Quora, which is not even public?

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