Is it a marketing tool? Is it a global empathy engine? Or is it a load of fuss about nothing? Perhaps I should just ask the digerati currently crowding around visual Q&A app Jelly, created by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone...
After linking the app with either Twitter or Facebook, the mobile-first search platform enables users to ask questions of their friends and friends-of-friends using pictures as the prompt.
‘Point. Shoot. Ask’ are its limited homescreen instructions. And then add a doodle to highlight a part of the image if you like.
From ‘What jacket should I get?’ to ‘shave?’, with an attached picture of your face, or 'what % of users now say NO to push notifications?', just snap a photo on the fly or upload an image from Google. You can also forward messages by email or text, with a link for the recipient to sign up, if you don't get the answer you're looking for.
It’s been likened to online question platform Quora, without the discussion and with a greater social element, a bit like Yahoo Answers but more good-looking, with elements of Snapchat, Tinder, Chatroulette and Instagram… Or perhaps an app for people who haven't discovered any of these things yet?
Unlike Quora, Stone says it hasn't been built to encourage discussion but glean answers quickly from a trusted network. The founder also says one of its main features is to make it easy to help others, which might naturally discourage the facetiousness experienced on other social networks… But the general rule of thumb with online services is 'build it and the trolls will come'.
So what is this really all about? It actually seems to lend itself rather well to marketing and is worth having a play if you're not too busy Facebooking, Tweeting and Pinning. You can get fast customer feedback or help with product development, for example, all for free. But then what's really in it for users and how does Jelly get a good number on board to begin with? It's no good if only marketers turn up to the party. No offence.
Search marketing has long been the undisputed winner on mobile, with Google the crowned prince, but perhaps it's due a refresh for 2014? As others are grasping around voice, perhaps visual and crowd is the way to go?
As a Q&A company, the founders are already asking users what else they’d want from the service, with answers including question categories and a search function. Although the platform is not being built within Twitter's ecosystem, add Twitter, Vine and Jelly together and you get a reasonably nifty social toolbox.
So. My initial assessment?
If you want facts, try Google. If you want opinion, ask Facebook and Twitter depending on the question. Heck, ask someone close to you if you dare! I'll settle on it becoming search for the Snapchat generation... If a generation could ever be defined by a service where the whole premise is impermenance, built in order to send dodgy pictures.
But brands beware. Don't think for one second think that the nice sentiment Stone outlines will stop people from snapping your staff/toilets/product and asking 'what is going on with this? Next!'