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Ask And Facebook Shall Receive

  • eWeek, Thursday, July 29, 2010 3:43 PM
Facebook is becoming Google-like in its ability to challenge a wide swath of companies with competing services. Indeed, just days after Ask.com debuted a new question-and-answer service, the social net has unveiled Facebook Questions to facilitate Q&A between its roughly 500 million members.

Ask.com, however, is far from the only company that Facebook will likely disrupt with its Questions service. For starters, "Facebook is taking on question-and-answer search services such as Quora, Google's Aardvark and Hunch," eWeek writes. "The most interesting competition Facebook Questions poses could be to Quora, which was formed by former Facebook engineers Charlie Cheever and Adam D'Angelo."

As The New York Times reported earlier this week, "Aardvark, which was acquired by Google, and Quora, which recently raised $14 million in venture financing, have [recently] led a new generation of search services that zero in on specific questions rather than search terms."

Until now, however, no one seems to have found a killer Q&A formula, Sterling Market Intelligence analyst Greg Sterling told the L.A. Times this week.

"This whole notion of Q&A and human-powered search is really valuable and powerful, but not so far done in a way that is effective across the board," he said. "It's really about how they can provide targeted responses to questions people have. You have to provide a great experience every time. In most cases, there will be a reasonably good response on Google. They will have to be that much better."

That said, "There's a very good chance the competition won't have enough ammunition to keep Facebook from becoming a dominant force in the space very quickly," writes the Econsultancy blog. "Facebook has more than 500m users, giving in the ability to drive significant adoption almost instantly when it releases new products. But even more importantly, Facebook has something that no other Q&A site does: a massive, comprehensive social graph."

Furthermore, as Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan notes, "Facebook ... is unique in almost certainly having the largest community of people than any of these services, and a community that is already used to asking questions to others on the social network. That potentially gives it a huge advantage in the space."

Beyond its many Q&A competitors, can Facebook Questions compete with Google as a viable search alternative? Not likely, Sullivan tells The BBC. "Indexing and ranking the web is very expensive and Facebook has no skills in doing that," says Sullivan. "But what they do have is social connections, which allows users to put out those questions to others who they trust."

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