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Biz Stone's Answer to the Search Engine Has Arrived, But Will Anyone Use It?

January 8, 2014
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230707

First announced in April, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone's newest project, a social and visual question-and-answer app called Jelly, launched on Tuesday with the tag line "Let's Help Each Other."

Stone and co-founder Ben Finkel's mission? "Make the world a more empathetic place." In an introductory video on the company's site, Stone describes Jelly as "a new way to search," explaining that in our increasingly mobile and connected world, "if you have a question, there is somebody out there who has the answer."

Stone does have a pretty good track record for understanding how people want to communicate, given his involvement with platforms like Medium and Blogger. But the question remains: What sets Jelly apart from Quora, Yelp, or even Google?

One of the company's investors, popular science writer Stephen Johnson, aimed to explain the difference between asking a question on Jelly versus other platforms, noting, "How much is the new Battlefield 4 game?' is a great question for Google. 'Is the Battlefield 4 game appropriate for a 10-year-old?' is a great question for Jelly."

Related: Why Starting Small Can Lead to a Better App

Working to make search less about algorithms and more about the people behind them, Jelly users in the same social network can share their questions with one another, or "pay it forward," by connecting friends who don't know each other. The rollout has also put a lot of emphasis on images, with Jelly saying in its introductory blog post, "In a world where 140 characters is considered a maximum length, a picture really is worth a thousand words."

The idea for Jelly isn't so much brand new as it is revamped. Finkel, who is also the company's CTO, co-founded Fluther, another Q&A tool that was acquired by Twitter in 2010.

So, why the Jellyfish mascot, besides a hat tip to the company's roots? The company's About page reads, "We chose the jellyfish to represent our product because it has a loose network of nerves that act as a "brain" similar to the way we envision loosely distributed networks of people coordinating via Jelly to help each other."

Related: The Secrets of the World's Most Successful Mobile Apps

Jelly's investors include fellow Twitter co-founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Afghan Citadel Software Company CEO Roya Mahboob, and a few other people you might have heard of: Bono and Al Gore. The app is now available for Apple and Adroid products.

Is Jelly a well-meaning, only-in-San Francisco vanity project or search game-changer? The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Whether Jelly joins the pantheon of apps that just didn't make the cut, or catches on in a major way, will come down to whether the company can develop a community that finds it a compelling way to interact and spend their time.