Quora Elevates the Web
Quora just announced its Series B fundraising, and I’m pleased to be a part of it, as Matrix is one of the large investors in the round.
I’m a huge fan and avid user of the site, and I think it has the potential to be one of the cornerstone web properties, and help make the world a better place.
I’ve spent a ton of time in this shared knowledge category on the web over the last 8 years. In 2003, when I was looking to start my next business, I came onto this idea of community shared knowledge. In the post-bubble era, no one was investing in content for the web because there was no economic model to support it, but by 2003-04 a number of things were happening. Wikipedia was just beginning to emerge as an important site. In 2004, Jack Herrick and I bought eHow, and rebuilt it out of the ashes of its first incarnation.
While at eHow, Jack conceived the idea for wikiHow — like wikipedia, but for all the topics of How To. Inspired by that vision, of having a community work collectively to build the world’s largest how-to destination, we sold eHow to Demand Media, but spun out and kept wikiHow. Jack and the community have built that into a mega destination with tens of millions of unique visitors, and eHow has flourished as well under a paid content model via Demand Media.
But still: there remains a enormous pile of information tied up in people’s heads, and a Google search fails to unlock it. Quora is attacking that pile. A lot of that information is stuff with multiple points of view — the wiki model, for all its strength, sucks for topics where people disagree. The articles twist themselves in knots trying to balance everything. Quora can handle that type of issue much more elegantly, because it is inherently built for that kind of content. And it turns out, a huge portion of what you want to know and search for is that kind of content.
What’s audacious about Quora’s approach is that they aspire to be a primary destination, both for content discovery and creation. There are many challenges to that — how do you get people to an empty party — but they’ve surmounted those initial barriers, and there is a very lively and growing userbase. If they can achieve their vision, they can become a primary web destination alongside Google or Wikipedia — their control of the distribution of their content gives them great insight into what’s good and what you want to read, and a search inside Quora can yield very high quality results, much more so than if an outside party just indexes the text on their pages and tries to do it all on content without context.
They are also fanatical about quality, and unwilling to sacrifice it for short term user growth, and that’s lead to a community at scale with a high quality of discourse. In my experience this is something only the highest quality communities can achieve — as an active member in many online forums, and an investor in Huddler which powers many of the highest quality communities online, I can say with confidence it’s an exception rather than the rule. All other Q&A sites have been absolutely crushed under the weight of audience building — check out any Yahoo answers page, where you’ll find answers like “Good Question, I don’t know, hope you find it” because the answerer gets a “point” for every answer. If I’m ever tempted by a Yahoo Answers result in Google, you know I’m desperate, and I bounce right back out. In contrast, a Quora result is likely to suck me in for a half hour of reading inadvertently.
It’s a rare opportunity to be an investor in one of your favorite sites, and I’m thrilled to do it. Congrats to the Adam, Charlie, Marc and the rest of the team.