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Twitter co-founder Biz Stone relaunches Q&A app Jelly as a search engine

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone relaunches Q&A app Jelly as a search engine

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Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is ready to take the wraps off Jelly 2.0, a reimagining of his failed Q&A app that's now less social network and more search engine. The product, now live for iOS and available on the web, allows you to ask questions anonymously and the app will then route the query to someone who will answer it. In a Medium blog post out today, Stone says his team is using artificial intelligence to get the question to someone Jelly thinks can answer it.

"Only Jelly can say you asked the wrong question. Only Jelly can give you answers you wanted but didn’t think to ask. Only Jelly will deliver a thoughtful answer to your anonymous question," he writes. "This is all because Jelly is humanity plus technology." In the first iteration of Jelly, questions were not anonymous, which Stone thinks kept users from asking more sensitive and meaty questions. Now, all you do is drop in a question and wait until someone feeds you back an answer, like a time-delayed Google with the added benefit of conversing with a human being on the other end. And you don't have to login if you don't want to.

Jelly is like a time-delayed Google with a human being on the other end

The app is still based on altruism and good faith. Jelly now requires you to provide subjects of expertise or experience if you'd like to answer questions. You could of course lie about any of this, or provide false information you thought was true to unsuspecting Jelly users. But Stone expects more from people. "We all have an instinct to help," he writes. "Studies have shown that helping others releases the same brain chemical as winning money. Our incentive to help is wired in."

Jelly 2.0 represents Stone's third attempt at a mobile app since his departure from Twitter in 2011. Between the first and second versions of Jelly, he co-launched another social-focused app called Super, which let you superimpose text on images and stylize them in zany ways. It failed to take off, but Stone says people are still signing up every day and enjoying it. "It’s really not a lot of work to keep it up these days with Amazon Web Services," he told Recode in January when first announcing Jelly 2.0. "People are having fun with it, so I don’t see any reason to close it down."

Whether Jelly is more successful this time around will depend less on how many questions people ask and more on the quality of the answers. Adding anonymity will certainly foster more truthful and entertaining queries. But expertise is hard to vet on the internet. For instance, Q&A service Quora thrives on sussing out answers from verified high-profile individuals who are in the know. For a counter example, just look at the hilarious mess that is Yahoo Answers.