Is Quora the Next Twitter or Foursquare?

Is it just me or has Quora become the hottest thing in social media? All of a sudden, the cool kids have joined Quora, a social-fueled Q&A service that has the pedigree of being started by ex-Facebook employees.

So what’s the appeal? It’s not that a Q&A service is new. Yahoo Answers, anyone? But for whatever reason, Quora has captured the imagination of many people, including the digitally engage,d who were early users of Twitter and Foursquare.

The big question is whether Quora’s the real deal or whether it’s just the newest shiny toy to appear on the scene. You have to remember the high-tech world is always looking for the next thing so perhaps Quora has just become the latest obsession in the wake of anything else emerging.

Keep in mind that Facebook has gone mainstream, Twitter is getting there, Tumblr is wavering between niche and edging towards mainstream, and Foursquare is social media’s emperor with no clothes even though many people really want to believe it has potential to be something – whatever that something is.

This brings us to Quora, which has seen a spike in traffic over the past few months. As a Q&A service, Quora is interesting, although I wouldn’t describe it as compelling. I think a big part of Quora’s appeal is how it blatantly leverages social media – everything from pretty much forcing you register using Twitter or Facebook to offering suggestions about other people you could follow who are also on Quora.

The follow tool is brilliant because once you see familiar faces on Quora, the service is validated. When you follow someone, Quora is validated in the eyes of the person you just followed….and around and around we go.

Don’t get me wrong, Quora could be a very interesting service. Heck, Ev Williams apparently answered a question about launching a start-up at SXSW. The biggest danger facing Quora could be the amount of hype that it could attract now that it appears to be anointed as social media’s Next Big Thing. The hype could suddenly make Quora less cool because it will have been discovered by people beyond the leading edge.

At the same time, Quora could start to face unrealistic expectations about how the service provides value and – here it comes – how it’s going to make money. Sometimes, be careful what you wish for.

Let’s just say I’m not completely jumping on the Quora bandwagon. Despite my earlier pledge to not dive into new services, Quora is difficult to ignore but my interest will be pragmatic as opposed to enthusiastic.

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