Facebook Questions: a Quora killer?

This morning, Facebook finally rolled out its much-anticipated Questions feature, enabling individuals and pages to post publicly searchable and answerable questions among the Facebook community.

The service has been in beta since last summer, but as of now is available to anyone who asks for it. Want in? Here’s what you do: Go to the Facebook Questions intro page at facebook.com/questions and click on the big green “Get Questions Now” button.

Then, have a look at questions your friends have already asked on the next screen – you can get back to this overview page later by clicking on the “Questions” icon that now appears in the left rail on the main screen of Facebook (a.k.a. your News Feed). Thing is, you’ll probably only see a few questions unless you’re friends with a bunch of early adopters – this was on the top of my own list when I first accessed Questions this morning:

And this brings up a few important questions about Facebook Questions – particularly since everyone’s wondering if Facebook’s newest feature is the end of the game for social questions service Quora, once the darling of social media trendspotters but now collapsing a bit under its own weight after opening its doors to more than just Internet glitterati. First, how long will it be before the service gains enough traction among our individual micro-networks that it’s useful for more than just meeting new people? (In the few hours since posting a couple of questions this morning, I haven’t received any useful answers from folks I know, but have been sufficiently piqued by friends’ friends’ answers to click through to profiles and think about making some new friend requests.) If Facebook Questions is really going to be an up-close-and-personal alternative to Quora’s weighty but distant sense of authority, those close personal friends will need to opt in to the service – fast. (Which they undoubtedly will, but it’s worth mentioning.)

The second question is perhaps more important in light of whether Questions will be a serious challenger to Quora: Is every query on this thing going to be answered with “your mom”? Democratizing this sort of question-and-answer service, particularly without including the sort of “vote up-vote down” functionality Quora uses for self-policing, may lead to the sort of Wild West scenario that seems to happen frequently with new additions to Facebook: Turn the feature loose, see where it breaks in terms of usefulness, privacy or user experience, then rein it in accordingly.

In the meantime, it’s certainly fun to play with. A few more notes before you embark on your own Facebook Questions adventure:

– Your personal questions, as well as your answers to others’ questions, default to appearing on your Wall.
– Once you’ve asked a question, you can’t edit it.
– You can ask an open-ended question, in which anyone can add an answer, or a poll, where you specify a fixed number of choices. Or you can create a poll with a few choices as a starting point, and let others add their own options too.
– All questions and answers are public access, even if your own profile and Wall are set to private.
– Want to see how a question evolves over time? You can follow it and receive a notification each time someone adds a new answer.
– You can comment on a question, as long as whoever posted it has their privacy set up accordingly: If they don’t let you write on their Wall, you probably can’t comment on that question.

Have you used Facebook Questions yet? What do you think so far? Let us know in the comments.