Just a couple of months ago, few people had heard of Quora, the suddenly very fashionable social question and answer site. Founded back in 2009 by Charlie Cheever and Adam D’Angelo, traffic to the the site suddenly exploded around Christmas and it now has comfortably in excess of 500,000 registered users.
The premise behind Quora is very simple. Registered users post questions – and other registered users answer them. Despite the enthusiasm of some social media commentators, Quora is a social networking site in that sense only: the connection it forms between question setters and those who answer them.
A visit to Quora reveals a sparsely designed, text-heavy site with a clear message: it’s the content that is important here, not eye candy. The latest questions to be posted scroll down the home page, in an simple feed. A straightforward search box at the top is available to users looking for questions and answers on particular topics.
Of course, Quora is the not the first question and answer site – but a few relatively simple factors distinguish it from well-established rivals like Yahoo! Answers and WikiAnswers. Firstly there is the uncluttered design, free from the rather garish ads and colour splashes of other sites. Then there is the fact that users must use their real names rather the internet pseudonyms so common on the other sites. The belief – or at least hope – is that this will encourage quality material. People are far less likely to troll, flame or post nonsense when their real name is attached to the result.
Finally, Quora has attracted some big names – particularly amongst the technology industry, including Steve Case, co-founder of the once enormous AOL, and Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook. If you want to know exactly what the latter thought of recent – and much lauded – film ‘The Social Network’, for example, Quora is the place to look.