Twitter’s latest development – Jelly (by iLead Online)

Twitter’s Jelly App Marries Social Networking with Q&A Image Search

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and his former colleague Ben Finkel launched the latest Twitter venture, which is a social app that works on a question and answer principle. It shows some similarities to conventional search, but delivers results in the form of answers from friends.

About the Masterminds

Biz Stone is the CEO of Jelly and Ben Finkel has been awarded the title of CTO. The two have worked together before and Finkel has some experience in questions and answers. He was the co-founder of Fluther, a similar service just without images. Twitter bought Fluther in 2010 and Finkel stayed on to manage the social network team.

How Fluther Works

Fluther works on the principle of personalised questions being routed to other users based on their profiles which indicate their expertise. It gives a chat room feel and usage reminds of the Twitter environment. The focus of Fluther is personalised with the aim of delivering better answers than other Q&A services. With such, Fluther aims to overcome the Yahoo and problems of irrelevant and sometimes downright dim-witted answers. The users providing high quality answers improve their score and thus become known as experts on specific topic areas.

How Jelly Works

Jelly as the app is known, allows you to get answers from other Jelly users in the social network regarding image based questions. It’s based on the principle of submitting a question together with a photo. Here it reminds of Google Goggle, except you don’t get search results from the engine based on the photo only.

With the iTunes or Google Play downloadable app, one submits a question together with a photo to the people in the specific social network. If the social group brain doesn’t give the answer one can broaden the scope by sending the query outside the network in the hope that someone out there will have the answer.

Biz Stone claims it’s a new way to locate information. In effect, a person can already upload a photo and question to their Facebook account and ask others for their input. What makes this app different? It uses the Twitter social network, but other social networks can be included in broadening the brain pool.

The Jelly experience is all about images because they create the interest and depth required for the question and answer search type. You can crop, zoom or even make markings on the image for more specific instructions as well as reframe it.

According to the Jelly founders even if a friend cannot help, a friend of a friend may know the answer. At this stage a conventional search may deliver better results. The service will be useful when conventional searches don’t deliver results or if the user doesn’t know the name of the object or specific part of the object and wants an answer.

Competing against the Big Guns

Though image and question driven, Jelly competes against other Q&A services including:

  • Yahoo Answers
  • Google Answers

There’s also the Facebook platform where friend knowledge can be tapped. Jelly hopes to succeed where others have failed. With the general user experience at friend or foe assisted Q&A services being that of unreliable answers, one has to ask what will set Jelly apart. Though the human mind is powerful and holds a plethora of answers, not all the answers are accurate. The image driven search combined with the ability to structure a specific question and zoom or crop the image for more accurate guidance, may help to steer answers in the right direction.

According to the founders, Jelly differs from other Q&A platforms in the amount of words needed since conversation is discouraged. Users won’t have to deal with long discussions when they only need short answers. If you thus want to find a clear and concise answer, Jelly will be the platform to use as opposed to platforms such as Cha Cha or Quora.

The founders expect the focus on mobile and the image driven searching to give the app an edge over other Q&A services. According to the announcement at Twitter’s blog, you can expect to answer a few questions if using the service. People, only asking questions, most probably won’t get the answers they need if they don’t give back a little.

All in all Jelly isn’t that much different from any of the above mentioned platforms. It’s yet another attempt to bring conventional search to the modern mobile age. Other tech companies in the drive for improved user experiences include Apple and Yahoo. Apple has announced a new drive for improving Siri while Yahoo focuses on a more personal search experience. Stone sees Jelly as a search function that runs parallel to conventional search instead of competing with it.

Why Images?

With the Twitter world consisting of 140 character tweets, there isn’t enough space for long questions and answers. In this world of no-frills communication, an image can make up for the many words a person cannot use to describe the topic they want to know about. The image thus takes care of the limited word situation.

Stone noted that the popularity of Instagram and other photo based platforms shows that photos are the best way to go. The mobile world flourishes on images and without cameras mobile devices such as smartphones will be nothing more than compact and mobile computers. The ability to take a snapshot and send the image to another user or to quickly upload it to a social platform is what makes the smartphone different. Jelly will address the mobile community’s reliance on images and their need for quick and short answers.

Market Response and Potential Uses

Marketers may in future use the feedbacks and types of searches as indication of what people are using or looking for. Though the potential is there, it’s not a definite that marketers will see and explore such opportunities. The primary function of Jelly is, however, to provide users with an easy-to-use app for quickly getting short answers from their social network friends.

It seems as if Jelly will become popular, perhaps not so much for its image based Q&A, but for the ability to deliver news. Early users of the service have been active since its inception, but the questions so far fall short of value. Comments range from valuable to snarky. Unless the founders come up with a genius way for controlling how the app is used it has the potential of becoming another untrustworthy source of information.

The service, however, seems to be a popular tool for breaking news before the mainstream media gets a chance to do so. In this way it’s similar to Twitter. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to follow questions based on topics, people or keywords and the only way to keep up with breaking news is to use the app 24 hours a day. Since breaking news is by no means its main purpose, this shouldn’t pose a threat to the potential for future mass usage.

The app hasn’t taken the market by storm, but it’s still too early to tell whether it will carve a niche in the Q&A service industry.