“What if we had to build a search engine, not a decade ago, but in today’s technology landscape – how would we do something like that?” Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and Jelly.
Biz Stone, who shot into the public consciousness as a co-founder of social media phenom Twitter, is at it again, this time hoping to tap into the selflessness of others.
The above quote is how he begins explaining his new venture, Jelly Enterprises, an eagerly anticipated app that launched on Android and iOS devices today.
As we speculated on Business Spectator last week, Stone’s new initiative is essentially a next-level Q&A service – arguably something of a hybrid between Ask.com and Instagram.
Users of the app will tap into their Twitter and Facebook contacts to pose questions of friends and friends-of-friends using pictures.
Jelly is hoping its program represents the commercially lucrative answer to the next step for social media:
“It’s not hard to imagine that the true promise of a connected society is people helping each other,” the company boldly proclaims in a blog post announcing its launch.
Jelly relies on altruism and will, in part, succeed or fail based on whether Stone and fellow co-founder Ben Finkel are right in judging the world as largely an empathetic place.
“People will be eager to help each other on Jelly, because we are driven to help,” Stone asserts in the video accompanying the launch.
“If you have a question there’s somebody out there who knows the answer.”
There is no question about that, but first they need to draw people to use the app, and then hope people care enough to help out their friends and acquaintances with what will, at times, be rather brainless questions.
Expect queries like ‘what is Jelly all about?’ and ‘how cute does my dog look in this hat?’ to reign in the early days, but it will need to quickly shift into something of real value to convince the early adopters to bring a broader audience into the fold. Otherwise, it will wind up as a less social, and more simple, version of Facebook.
While it may be effortless to pick holes in the project as a modern search engine, it’s also easy to imagine the app winning admirers for ease-of-use. Users simply take a picture or use one already on their phone, alter it in any way they like and write a question, which is delivered to their contacts. (It fell down for me at this point, as none of my contacts have yet embraced the app.)
The reaction so far has been mixed but there’s enough discussion on news websites and, dare I say it, on Twitter, to secure some early converts. And with the backing of former US vice president Al Gore, U2 frontman Bono, LinkedIn co-creator Reid Hoffman and Twitter co-founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams, there is sufficient financial power behind it to ensure it at least is offered the time to secure a spot in the search engine/social media landscape.
But are there enough questions more suited to Jelly than Facebook or Google to allow it to flourish?
Daniel Palmer is Business Spectator's North America correspondent @Danielbpalmer