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Facebook Launches – Facebook Questions

facebook questionsRecently, Facebook has added a “Questions” product to the facebook homepage of a few users. Wait! Don’t look for it now as this product has not been rolled out to everyone yet. This “Facebook Questions” product has many similarities with Quora as well as Yahoo! Answers. The developers of Quora initially worked at Facebook before they decided to create their own firm. Quora has become very popular over the past years. Recently, it has also been able to get some funding, which, according to market data, was worth about $86 million!

Market analysts predict that Facebook developed the “Questions” product to compete with both Quora and Yahoo! Answers. Facebook already is in a conflict with the former – since it was developed by people who parted from Facebook. It is not clear whether or not Facebook would be successful in its endeavor. However, one thing is certain: the tension between Facebook and Quora will greatly intensify if the former launches the “Questions” product.

Since Facebook has not yet officially disclosed information on its “Questions” product, nobody knows how it works. A few suggest that Facebook is still testing the product. After the testing is over, “Questions” may be available to only those users who are willing to pay for it – to increase the exposure of their ads to targeted Facebook users. Others suggest that the product may be offered for free to all users of Facebook as a “value-added service”.

The “Questions” product also bears similarities with Facebook’s past creation – “Polls”. Facebook dropped out the “Polls” product only a few months after it launched it. Facebook is expected to roll out the “Questions” product as soon as the testing of the product is over. What the product will end up doing is a matter of much speculation. In the meantime, people are eagerly waiting for a formal announcement from Facebook.

Update: Allthefacebook blog has some latest scoop on this news. They are saying that Facebook Questions is an Aardvark competitor and not a Quora killer. Blake Ross, the Director of Product at Facebook responded to a question that was posted on Quora about this issue. Read his answer below:

Why is Facebook creating a Q&A Product To Compete with Quora?

Blake Ross, Director of Product, Facebook writes:

I’ll answer this since I’m involved in the questions prototype at Facebook.

Real-time Q&A backed by people has been a dream of mine since I joined Facebook three years ago. If you ever used the old Facebook Polls product, you know how powerful it is to toss a question into the ether and watch results stream in from around the globe in seconds. People already ask logistical and recommendation questions on Facebook (e.g. “Is Desperate Housewives a repeat tonight?” or “What’s a good Italian restaurant around here?”) and we’d like to see what happens when we combine that use case with the magic of the Polls product to deliver instantaneous results.

There’s been a lot of hype about “the Q&A space” recently with the acquisition of Aardvark, the launch of Quora and the expansion of StackOverflow, but I consider this typical blogosphere theatrics. All these products are pursuing very different use cases. For instance, Quora is focused on creating a forum-like environment for participants to iterate on a knowledgebase, while Aardvark is focused on getting really fast results for more day-to-day queries. Given that Facebook is a social utility, our focus is on delivering practical value to users who need answers quickly from the people around them (whether socially or spatially). This question itself is a good example of something that Facebook Questions wouldn’t answer well, nor do we care to.

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.
Observers of the tech industry often have a vastly oversimplified view of the world. I remember when we launched Facebook Lite and it was considered to be our “Twitter killer” because the Facebook/Twitter “battle” was the meme of the month, even though I’m pretty sure the Lite team never even uttered the word Twitter during development. Likewise, our recent purchase of Octazen was somehow an answer to Google Buzz (http://www.businessinsider.com/f…), as was our AOL/Connect partnership (http://www.thebigmoney.com/blogs…). Your question implies that Facebook is setting out to compete with Quora so perhaps we’re in for another month of unfortunate headlines.

Sensationalism notwithstanding, I’m not someone who’s driven by “killing” someone else’s baby. There are too many new and exciting things to give birth to. Even if Facebook were led by stoic businessmen (it’s not), a “Quora-killer” wouldn’t make objective sense. Quora is a terrific product built on Facebook Connect. It isn’t competitive with the core use cases of Facebook, which is why Facebook Questions is pursuing different use cases.
I was one of Quora’s earliest users, and like everyone else here, I’m now an addict. I’m also friends with Quora’s founding team. You can bet I’ll be rooting them on in their inevitable march to success.

So, what do you think ?