Why Quora Is Wikipedia's Worst Nightmare


Photo: Synthesis

If the buzz in Silicon Valley is to be believed, the decade-old compendium of common knowledge Wikipedia could very well be replaced in the near future by a startup run by ex-Facebookers.Instead people will be visiting Quora, a Palo Alto-based $400 million startup that’s basically an extremely flexible and powerful question-and-answer site, because Quora delivers new and relevant content in addition to having a giant database of information.

Here’s why:

  • Plugged-in tech professionals admire Quora’s technology for surfacing new, relevant content to readers. That’s not surprising, given that Quora’s founders are former early Facebook employees. Whenever you go to Quora, it’s almost guaranteed that you will read something that’s at least somewhat relevant and interesting to you. 
  • Quora serves as a database for information about pretty much every topic, from a tech company to life in a prison, much like Wikipedia.  Wikipedia does this as well, but it doesn’t have an efficient way of discovering new content. Wikipedia’s early advantage was that each article was flooded with links to other articles, keeping you on the site for a while.
  • The quality of Wikipedia is having trouble keeping up with Quora. Wikipedia self-reports that its highest number of concurrent editors was in 2007, and the number of editors has flattened. It appears to even be trending down in the past year.

If you look at ComScore data, you can see that Wikipedia’s visitors have started to stall, while Quora is growing quickly:

wikipedia visitors

Photo: ComScore

Quora uniques

Photo: ComScore

Here’s how Quora works: you follow a few topics, and Quora’s engine automatically surfaces answers to relevant questions asked by users. Answers can be voted up and down, and the most popular answers are featured the most prominently.

Still, Quora’s algorithm has a bit of a secret sauce feel to it — sometimes you’ll find an answer that has anywhere from 1 to 5 votes on your main feed, but it will still be relevant. Quora’s discovery engine is its most powerful asset.

It’s important to note that Quora is a tiny gnat compared to Wikipedia’s traffic. Still, the trajectory shows an enormous amount of promise, and given Quora’s buzz, shouldn’t be ignored.

Quora vs. Wikipedia

Photo: ComScore

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