"There’s a pretty good chance that within a couple years most peoples' main way to use the internet is through mobile," says Charlie Cheever, co-founder of Q&A site Quora. The site’s well-sourced answers to common questions already draw 25 percent of its traffic exclusively from mobile. "We were worried about people not writing stuff when we launched the iPhone app," Cheever says, "but it was remarkably similar both in how much people were writing and with content being on par with our website. It’s a sign that people are doing everything they want to do on mobile devices."
"People are doing everything they want to do on mobile devices."
The company launched its first Android app today, which integrates Android-exclusive features like widgets, sharing to a variety of apps, and your phone's native search. This makes it a lot more useful than its iOS counterpart, which doesn't offer much beyond a speedy native version of its web product. The new app did receive a Jelly Bean visual styling of its own, but the real meat is in its functionality. First, the app lets you add the site as a source inside your phone’s search menu, so when you type in "What is the meaning of life?" results from Quora instantly pop up underneath Google's own search results. If no existing questions from Quora pop up, you can tap to ask it — a quick and easy way to post a question on the site. Quora's engineers specifically cite Android's "high fidelity" voice recognition as a great way to search in the new app. Additionally, a new resizable widget lets you see the Top Questions on Quora at a glance from one of your home screens. Cheever hopes that the widget will increase engagement with users that don’t necessarily check out the app every day — one of the biggest challenges most app developers face.
Quora for Android also includes the ability to embed photos inline inside a post, a first for the service on a mobile platform. "What’s the story of this guy on a horse?" is a question you might only ask if you’re on the go, Cheever says. "This is going to be the main way that a lot of people will be using Quora... someday people might not even be using the website." The company is still quite small and doesn’t have a huge number of monthly users (270,000 log in monthly using Facebook), but is seemingly very focused on a future where asking and browsing questions on the go is top priority. On Android, asking and sharing questions feels native.
Google’s recent debut of Google Now shows that it too is putting a lot of resources behind answering real questions, but the difference is that Quora surfaces educated answers from teachers and CEOs and scientists — sources Google can’t hope to easily index. Siri, on the other hand, still can't parse many kinds of questions you ask. If Quora’s answers can be better than Google's, its new app could drive huge traffic to the platform just as the race to provide "knowledge" (instead of search results) really heats up. And when Quora is embedded right into your Android search menu, users might not even know the difference.