Yahoo! Inc., a leading global Internet company, launched Yahoo! Answers beta, a free service where people can ask questions and get answers from real people on any topic.
Yahoo! Answers beta complements Web Search by adding a human element that allows users to ask straightforward questions and receive specific answers based on the collective knowledge and experience of the community. Yahoo! Answers beta is available at http://answers.yahoo.com/.
Yahoo has introduced a point system for participation on the new Yahoo Answers site. Every time a user posts or provides an answer to a question, he or she receives a certain amount of points. More points are awarded when a user's answer is designated by the questioner as a best answer. Although the points cannot be exchanged for anything, they provide users with information as to an answerer's reliability.
Users must sign up for a Yahoo ID for use the service, which is free of charge. Once registered, users can post questions or answer posted questions.
Users can also set up RSS feeds to receive updates on answers posed to their inquiries. When a satisfactory answer is received, the poster can close the question to further answers. To prevent a select number of users from dominating the site, Yahoo has placed restrictions on how many postings a user can make per day.
Yahoo! Answers builds on Yahoo! Search's vision to help web users find, use, share and expand all human knowledge. Through using Yahoo! Answers, consumers can more easily share their knowledge, personal experiences and opinions with their community to resolve everyday questions not answered by keyword searches. By archiving and categorizing users' questions and answers by topic, and making it searchable, users will be able to quickly tap into the repository of rich knowledge from the community. Moreover, users can keep up with the latest questions and answers on their favorite topics on their My Yahoo! page or any other RSS reader.
At Yahoo!, we are huge believers in the power of community, said Ofer Shaked, director of engineering at Yahoo! Search. With the largest base of Web users, Yahoo! is in a unique position to tap into the vast knowledge and opinions of individuals to benefit the greater group. Yahoo! Answers lets consumers get their questions answered in a personalized way and share their knowledge with other Web users.
The service has drawn immediate comparisons to competitor Google's fee-based Google Answers service. The drawback to the Google service is obviously the presence of a subscription fee, but Google Answers purportedly provides answers from experts on the topics in question, while with Yahoo Answers, any user can pose an answer to a question.
The general advantage to this type of site is that, while not providing the quick response of a typical search engine, it can provide answers to more broad or subjective questions. More importantly to the companies that run the sites, it can provide users with a feeling of community that keeps them on the site for longer periods of time and returning frequently, thus exposed to more online advertising.
The Yahoo! Answers community determines the respective reputation of members who deliver the most trusted valuable and relevant information. Yahoo! Answers users vote on the best answer to their question and users who are regularly voted as delivering the best answers can build their reputation over time as a trusted source for information on specific topics.
While not meant to replace the quick answers people get through traditional search engines, the new service appears to follow the strategy among portals to offer services that keep visitors on the site longer, and keeps them coming back, thereby increasing their exposure to advertising. An effective means of accomplishing this goal is to build social networks in which people share information.
Yahoo is not the first to offer a search service based on human interaction. Rival Google offers a fee-based service called Google Answers, in which users tell researchers how much they are willing to pay for answers. Queries and research are posted on the Google Answers Web site, so registered users can also have access to the information and contribute their own insights.