For the nascent Internet user, Yahoo Answers was one of the first major Q&A website that was widely used. Unlike the impersonal experience of a Google search, Yahoo Answers was inherently social. Behind every question there was a face, an avatar, a person. It was enough to give the service the heartbeat it needed to thrive.
In 2009, Aardvark arrived as the heir apparent to Yahoo Answers. Beriddled by abuse and becoming more useful for ridiculing the questions submitted by its users, Yahoo Answers was a shell of its former self and ripe for unseating.
I quickly fell in love with Aardvark. Unlike Yahoo Answers, Aardvark proactively routed questions you submitted to the right person with the domain knowledge to elicit a useful response. It accomplished this by asking you what topics that both interest you and are knowledgeable about.
As most avid users of Aardvark will tell you, this honeymoon was cut far too short when Google bought the company in 2011 and subsequently shuttered the service.
What is Jelly?
Information is not knowledge.
Jelly is a Q&A app that launched earlier this month. Founded by Biz Stone (of Twitter fame) and Ben Finkel, Jelly is in many ways reminiscent of its predecessor, Aardvark. At its most basic, it shares the ability to ask people in your direct and extended network any question. That’s where the similarities end.
Jelly is centered around photos. With every question you send out to your network, you must attach an accompanying photo. Let’s say you’re walking into your bathroom when holy mother of god there’s a spider dangling menacingly at the door to greet your arrival! You might be compelled to act upon your survival instincts and cry uncle or, perhaps you happen to be an arachnologist.
My god! This must be a new species! Has anyone ever laid eyes upon this beauty??
With Jelly at your side, you can quickly snap a photo of the charming eight-legger, type out a quick comment and question, and send it off to your friends to admire.
Oh heavens! Look at the red spots on that gorgeous fella! Do my eyes betray me or are those wings protruding from its back? And the hairs too! I’ve never seen something like it!
Place it in a jar and bring it over to the lab tomorrow for me to see! 😀 <3
Looks like a Brazilian huntsman to me, lad.
You have some weird friends.
Snapping photos of odd encounters in your environment and asking “what is this?” happens to be one of the most frequent uses of the app thus far. It’s sort of like Google Goggles but replace the byzantine algorithm that sometimes works with your friends. Just like Aardvark, Jelly is perfect for those types of fuzzy questions that require a bit more human touch.
Google is perfect for questions like:
- What time is the Superbowl?
- Where is the Superbowl being played?
- Who is performing during the half-time show at the Superbowl?
On Jelly, you ask:
- Are you watching the Superbowl for the game or the commercials?
- Who are you rooting for in the Superbowl?
- What’s the best food for a Superbowl party?
In some weird way, Jelly is like a more altruistic version of Google Glass. While the latter is pushing the boundaries of social taboos and turning tech bloggers into Fox News, Jelly lets you explore the world with what we’ve all learned to love: our phones and our friends.
Finally, Jelly is mobile-only; once upon a time a novel way to stand out and now, almost a given. Snapchat, Instagram, Vine. All have found incredible success as a platform that is made more useful and appealing because of its limitations.
The path taken by Q&A apps is littered with the corpses of many that have weathered it with early success but could not stand the test of time. Jelly is is many ways not a novel concept. However, we’ve become so intimately familiar with its core features like social, photos, and mobile. As the Jelly team summed up in their announcement post, Jelly is different because it “makes helping other people easy and fun.”