Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Join the Club: Facebook Has a Question, Too

As we noted earlier this week, the tech/media world is obsessed with questions: Start-ups that can describe themselves as question services get showered with money and big valuations; big players like Yahoo (YHOO) have had them for a while, and not-so big players like Ask are promoting their forays into questionland, too.

Now comes Facebook. The social network has had its own question service in a private beta for some time, but it’s finally come clean about it, via a blog post from product management boss Blake Ross.

The service is still in beta, which means that not all of you will be able to see it immediately. But I can, and I can report that… it’s a question service. As previously reported, it’s somewhat like Quora, the superhot question service founded by Facebook vets.

For my money though, it’s considerably easier for newbies to jump into than Quora, primarily because you’re likely to immediately see queries from your friends–or at least, the Facebook equivalent of friends.

The version I’ve been playing with this afternoon is also buggy–it is having a hard time guiding me to question categories–but I assume that will get fixed quickly.

My question, which I posed using Facebook’s new tool: To what end?

Search engine optimization pros will tell you that question services do great on search results, so I suppose that’s good for Facebook. And if Facebook’s service takes off, it gives users one less reason to head to a rival to lob in their queries.

But many Facebook users I know are already asking their friends for advice using the service, and I’m not sure that formalizing the process–and making the process “public and visible to everyone on the Internet”–will prompt them to do more of it. We’ll see.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik