[Cross-posted at BlogHer in a slightly different version.]
Facebook rolled out the first baby steps toward the new Facebook Questions yesterday with an announcement on the Facebook blog: Searching for Answers? Ask Facebook Questions.
To ask a question to the community, just click the “Ask Question” button at the top of the homepage. You can also ask questions about your friends from their profiles, similarly to how you would post on their Walls.
Not everyone has an “Ask Question” button yet. Just a few users are included in the beta testing. When you get it, it will look like this.
If you’ve used Yahoo! Answers or Quora, you know what Facebook Questions is about. You ask a question, you get crowdsourced answers. (Liz Gannes points out at GigaOM that Questions is very similar to Quora, a site started by former Facebookers.)
The defining feature for Facebook users to keep in mind is that Facebook Questions are public. Public to the whole Facebook population—all 500 million members. This is not a private conversation among you and your friends. This is a public as Twitter’s public timeline. Which means there are a lot of brains out there with the information you seek. It also means you need to use it with the awareness that it’s totally public. You cannot ask an anonymous question. Your name is attached.
It isn’t a status update, it isn’t a comment, it isn’t a game or a chat. It’s a way to get your questions answered. You hope the question is answered by someone who knows what they are telling you, but there’s no guarantee of correctness with Facebook Questions. Good answers do get voted up, however.
A very enthusiastic review at ReadWriteWeb in Why Facebook Questions Could be Zuckerberg’s Dream Come True states,
Company founder Mark Zuckerberg, wrong as he is about many things like privacy, has said that his goal with Facebook is to build empathy and connection between different people all around the world. If he was in it for the money, he would have taken Yahoo’s $1 billion offer years ago and run. That goal of cultural change may very well be served better by Questions than by any other Facebook feature to date.
Right, we all just want world peace. Will Facebook Questions help get us there?
A few other features include photo questions such a “what bird is this,” taking polls about questions, tagging questions with important keywords, and the ability to follow specific questions that you have an interest in.
One observer, in Facebook Questions: A Potential Threat to Google Search thinks Facebook Questions will do away with search. Search provides instant answers. You have to wait for someone to take on your question with the crowdsourced questions sites. I don’t think the two are in competition. Yahoo! Answers and Ask.com haven’t eliminated search.
What do you think of the Facebook Questions? Will you use it when it rolls out to your account? Do you think it can engender meaningful discussion? Thoughtful answers?