Is Quora the New Facebook?

Can a company started by two Facebookers challenge the Social Network? Many in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are loving the Q&A social media "darling" whose admirers include Robert Scoble, seemingly TechCrunch (43 articles in the last year, 12 in January 2011 alone) and Ashton Kutcher.

Started by Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever, both early Facebook employees, Quora is a question-and-answer site which allows users to follow topics or people that interest them. But after looking it over, if you don't eat and breathe technology and startups you may be bored.

Some recent questions included asking how much it cost AOL to send CDs to everyone in the 1990s to why famous posters get more votes than unfamous ones -- perhaps because the site is filled with many of Silicon Valley's elite.

Katherine Boehret from the Wall Street Journal called the site "uninviting, geeky and poorly explained" with a huge Silicon Valley bias. In contrast or perhaps proving her point, the Silicon-Valleyphile Scoble says "all the cool kids are using it."

But Q&A sites aren't unusual, there's the low-rent Yahoo! Answers, WiseGeek and the like, but their answers may frequently be wrong and filled with LOLs and various misspellings.

That's supposed to be the idea behind Quora -- that you don't have 15-year-olds answering questions, but 20 to 40-something (mostly male) Silicon Valley movers-and-shakers -- so even if someone is wrong, at least they're more like the users themselves.  

In fact, there seems to a lot of concern among Quora's early adopters that the site will go mainstream and be like Yahoo! Answers. (Don't bother to look up Yahoo! Answers, it's a waste of time.)

But the biggest competition may be Facebook Questions, a similar kind of Q&A on Facebook set to debut in the next few weeks -- many think not only to compete with Quora but also to spank its former employees, D'Amato and Cheever.

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