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Have a pressing question? Need an answer? Chances are you'll turn to your friends and family, but doing so isn't always easy. Time and distance often separate us from the people we know, and sometimes a second or third opinion is needed.

So what's the solution? If the company has its way, the answer to that question is Facebook. Yesterday, the world's largest social network announced that its much-anticipated product, Facebook Questions, has entered beta and is being released to a growing number of Facebook users.

Q&A websites are not new, of course, but they represent a very popular niche on the consumer internet. From Answers.com to Yahoo! Answers, the top Q&A sites rank as some of the most popular websites overall. That means that Facebook will face some competition in trying to turn Facebook Questions into a leading Q&A destination.

But there's a very good chance the competition won't have enough ammunition to keep Facebook from becoming a dominant force in the space very quickly. Facebook has more than 500m users, giving in the ability to drive significant adoption almost instantly when it releases new products. But even more importantly, Facebook has something that no other Q&A site does: a massive, comprehensive social graph.

When we need an answer to a question, we often go to people who we know for a very simple reason: we trust them. Yet on sites like Answers.com and Yahoo! Answers, users are forced to rely on answers provided by individuals they probably don't know. That can be problematic, especially when asking a question that requires some level of expertise or competence in a particular area. Since users often don't have any real sense of who is answering their question, it's much more difficult to trust its accuracy.

With Facebook Questions, Facebook can allow you to tap into your social graph to get a more trustworthy set of answers. For instance, if I ask a medical question and get a response from a friend who has medical training, I'll probably feel more confident about the answer than an answer provided by somebody going by the name nurseintraining55.

Of course, Facebook's social graph means Facebook Questions has a lot of potential, but there's no guarantee that the potential will be realized. One potential problem: in an effort to drive adoption and traffic, questions are available publicly, and can't be restricted to friends alone:

Keep in mind that all questions and answers posted using the Questions application are public and visible to everyone on the Internet. If you only want to ask a question to your friends or a specific group of people, you can still pose it as a status update on your profile targeted to those people.

This, in my opinion, might make Facebook Questions less appealing, and limit some of the potential applications of Facebook Questions to questions of a more personal nature. But even so, it looks probable that Facebook Questions will silently disrupt the Q&A space just as Facebook Photos has silently disrupted online photo sharing.

The big question, of course, is what this will do for Facebook as a business. The answer: probably not much, at least in the immediate term. But that's okay. Mark Zuckerberg and company likely see Facebook Questions as just one of many products that can further increase Facebook's value as a social utility. Given the company's current position, I think we'll see more 'social utility' products being developed in the future.

Photo credit: tj_scenes via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 29 July, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2429 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Vincent Roman

I have pressing questions about the 3GB file knocking around PirateBay with 100m user's details. I suppose we wont be hearing any time soon about that. The current debacle aside i think FB would have a hard time cracking some niche Q&A sites like StackOverflow ... So nothing is totally a given when it comes to FB.

over 6 years ago

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@twithelpme

"in an effort to drive adoption and traffic, questions are available publicly, and can't be restricted to friends alone" this will of course be a great opportunity for spammers. This is less of a problem on an "open" platform like Twitter where the expectation is that your tweets can be seen by everyone. People using our site - http://twithelp.me - to get answers via Twitter generally like the fact that *anyone* could help them. However, on Facebook, I'm used to doing stuff only within my circle of friends. There could be some backlash from users who suddenly find themselves being marketed to just because they asked their friends a simple question...

over 6 years ago

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Sean - Blogging Strategies

I would say its an excellent thought by Facebook. Being a dominant social networking site with over 500m users, it should really concentrate on providing more and more beneficial features like this. Because a website/business/firm with such large popularity should be able to provide one stop solution to its users/customers just as Google doing ;) 

over 6 years ago

Matthew Phelan

Matthew Phelan, Director and Co-Founder at 4Ps Marketing

Very, very interesting. Yahoo! answers did really well but for obvious reasons I can see allot more potential for this. Might be a good place for the “Social Media Guru’s” to hang out :-)

over 6 years ago

Andy Wooles

Andy Wooles, Director at Great Northern Design Ltd

If Facebook Questions takes off , then usability could be a major issue. With 500M users around the world, then the sheer volume of questions and answers (+spam) could really hamper its usefulness to the average FB user.

But add the ability to only share the question with 'friends'  or 'friends of friends', and it becomes a really helpful extension to the normal social chat.

over 6 years ago

Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens, Social Customer Care Consultant at IBM Interactive Experience/GBS/MobileEnterprise

It's an interesting one. The value for Facebook comes in having the potential volume of people at the outset, rather than the usual focus on having to build up the volume. Furthermore Facebook's emphasis is about creating new services that ensure they remain relevant to enough of their customer base, rather than becoming specialists in Q&A/help engines. There's no doubt that people will use it out of convenience, but so too will people continue to use other help engines that exist as well. The bigger change that Facebook Questions is possibly going to have is shifting the emphasis away from the importance we put on the answer given to the importance/status/familiarity/reputation/knowledge of the person giving the answer. 

over 6 years ago

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vkodass

I recommend trying www.socialkik.com to buy Facebook fans, they have been recommended by a lot of bloggers and they can both be trusted. Socialkik can actually add fans to your Facebook page without logging into your Facebook profile, so I guess they send out thousands of suggestions to people in their network until they get 1K, 2K, 5K, 10K or 100K of Facebook fans to join your page, which is totally fine with Facebook terms of use.

about 6 years ago

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Stipe

Hello!!!I m from Croatia...having a 31 years...i m a Croat citizen but i wll like to go in Norway to work and live(whit my girl,she will be also workinng whit me,croatian citizen also)Can you help me to find the answer how to do that...I will like to do eny can of job..and my girl frend also,we want to stay,work in Norway to long time..Can you help me somehow,maybe know how to do that...or someone knowes agency who need a new family to stay and wor in Norway?

over 5 years ago

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