Twitter Co-Founder Launches ‘Jelly’ – An App To Ask Questions

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Biz Stone wants everyone to help everyone, for free

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has launched Jelly, an app that helps its users to find an answer to whatever question puzzles them at the moment.

First announced around a year ago, Jelly is intended to tap  into the potential of users’ extended social network. It allows users to post a query, accompanied by a picture or a drawing, and receive a response from the people they know and trust.

“Jelly changes how we find answers because it uses pictures and people in our social networks. It turns out that getting answers from people is very different from retrieving information with algorithms. Also, it has the added benefit of being fun,” states the Jelly blog.

The free app has been available on iOS and Android devices since Tuesday.

Hive mind

For a long time, Jelly was shrouded in mystery, with nothing to its name except Stone’s credentials. Turns out the app was designed to crowdsource answers, but unlike websites like Ask.com or Yahoo Answers, it goes directly to your friends, family and colleagues.

81d02e33.HeroSocialFirst, the user has to take a picture of the subject that interests them, and then add a question. The app will share the post among their friends on Twitter and Facebook, with more social network services expected to be added in the future. Users can also forward their question to any mobile phone with a simple text.

The photos can be edited, cropped or enhanced with notes or drawings. Every post has to feature a picture, but it can be sourced from anywhere – the smartphone camera, gallery or any online source. Of course, users can not also answer questions, getting virtual ‘thank you’ cards in return.

According to Stone, the company decided on a particular logo because a jellyfish is essentially “a loose network of nerves that act as a brain”.

“A person can also do something in two seconds that artificial intelligence would take the next 50 years to figure out. I am a big sci-fi fan but when people tout artificial intelligence, I joke, ‘How about just intelligence?’ There are 7 billion people on the planet. There is bound to be somebody who is going to help you out,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

The company behind Jelly currently employs eight people, and is based in San Francisco. It is supported by fellow Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, as well as U2’s Bono and former US vice president Al Gore.

Much like Twitter, Jelly is a platform for user-generated content and since it doesn’t feature advertising, it’s not clear how it plans to make money.

The idea for a social search service has been criticised in the media, with many observers pointing out that users can already share their questions, accompanied by pictures, through existing social networking services, and don’t really need Jelly.

In addition, users will only get answers from contacts who have already installed the app, which could limit the number of ‘fonts of wisdom’ in your network to just one or two.

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