Not content to rest on Twitter’s laurels, the microblogging giant’s co-founder is hoping to disrupt another market with his new search application. Twitter mastermind Biz Stone and fellow co-founder Ben Finkel founded a new company called Jelly last April, and are now spreading word of its new search system
with the same name.
Jelly is actually a mobile-oriented search system, similar in ways to Google, but with the addition of a collaborative, social, Q&A twist.
The founders explain they chose the jellyfish to represent their question-and-answer app because the jellyfish has a loose network of nerves that act as a 'brain', similar to the way they envision loosely distributed networks of people coordinating via Jelly to help each other find information.
“It’s not hard to imagine that the true promise of a connected society is people helping each other,” Stone said in a blog post on the Jelly Web site. “Using Jelly is kinda like using a conventional search engine in that you ask it stuff and it returns answers. But, that’s where the similarities end. Albert Einstein famously said, ‘Information is not knowledge.’ Knowledge is the practical application of information from real human experience.”
Pictures Speak More than 140 Characters
Stone boldly declared that Jelly will change how we find answers because it uses pictures and people in our social networks. In an almost anti-Google statement, Stone said it turns out that getting answers from people is very different from retrieving information with algorithms. With that in mind, there are three key features of Jelly: friends follow friends; paying it forward; and point, shoot, ask.
Stone said Jelly is designed to search the group mind of your social networks and what goes around, comes around. You may find yourself answering questions as well as asking, and you can help friends, or friends-of-friends with their questions and grow your collection of thank you cards, he said.
“My mom used to say, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ Any question on Jelly can be forwarded outside the app to anyone in the world,” he said, explaining the pay it forward concept. “Maybe your friend, or even your friend’s friend doesn’t have the answer. However, your friend’s friend’s friend just might. It’s a small world after all.”
Then there’s point, shoot and ask. In a world where 140 characters is considered a maximum length, Stone said a picture really is worth a thousand words. Images are in the foreground of the Jelly experience because they add depth and context to any question, he said, noting that you can crop, reframe, zoom, and draw on your images to get more specific.
Friends Beat Algorithms
Stone got specific about how Jelly works: “Say you’re walking along and you spot something unusual. You want to know what it is so you launch Jelly, take a picture, circle it with your finger, and type, ‘What’s this?’ That query is submitted to some people in your network who also have Jelly. Jelly notifies you when you have answers,” he explained.
“No matter how sophisticated our algorithms become, they are still no match for the experience, inventiveness, and creativity of the human mind. Jelly is a new way to search and something more -- it makes helping other people easy and fun.”
Doomed To Fail?
We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on the new concept. He characterizes Jelly as “very interesting," but with a caveat about its potential for success.
Almost without exception, he said, the Q&A or social search sites that have existed or still exist to varying degrees have been failures.
“For example, Facebook Questions failed. Quora is essentially stalled. Yahoo Answers is overripe. Google Answers failed. The list goes on. What might make Jelly different and give it a shot at success is its focus on mobile and the use of images as a central feature of the experience,” Sterling said.
“In addition, the fact that it tries to leverage your existing social network may help it build scale more rapidly. Despite this interesting approach," he added, "it will still be a tough challenge for Jelly to build a large audience and regular usage."