Rumors about Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone’s latest idea have circulated for about a year now, but the curtain has finally been drawn back with the release of the Jelly app. The application is designed to leverage social networks in order to answer questions, hoping that people will prefer to turn to their network of friends rather than a search engine’s algorithm, according to the New York Times.

To use the application, users snap a photo and ask a question. The image and question then go out to the user’s Facebook friends and Twitter followers, who can answer the question, ignore it, or choose to forward it on to someone who might know. The question doesn’t go out to everyone, but just a select group of contacts chosen by Jelly’s internal algorithm.

Answering a question is just as simple, although users can only look at one question at a time, choosing to answer it, forward it, or skip it. There’s no way to scroll through multiple questions quickly, like one would when browsing a Twitter feed. Users can “star” a question to track its progress, but otherwise there’s no mechanism to go back through skipped questions.

While Jelly isn’t likely to challenge search engines like Google or Bing when it comes to text-based questions, it may find a niche in the world of visual search. Using a search engine to discover what kind of tree is in the backyard could mean writing a carefully worded query and looking through thousands of images, while that same search on Jelly would just require a quick picture and a simple “What is this?” Search engines are expanding beyond just text-based searches, but it’ll be a long time before they can react to visual searches in the way that humans can.

As noted in a statement on the company’s blog, “No matter how sophisticated our algorithms become, they are still no match for the experience, inventiveness, and creativity of the human mind.” Jelly is also perfect for more philosophical questions, general advice, or just as a conversation starter.

Since the project is coming from one of the founders of Twitter, it has already gotten a lot of notice. In the long run, its success, like that of most social networking endeavors, will depend on getting a large number of people to continue using it. The Jelly app is available for both iOS and Android devices, either from their respective app stores or from the Jelly website.

Would the Jelly app be useful in your life? 

Image courtesy of Flickr




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