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Biz Stone's Jelly: The Instagram of questions

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone launched a new app this week called Jelly. Buzzfeed COO Jon Steinberg weighs in with his first thoughts.

I'm struck by how different Jelly is from anything currently running on my iPhone. The app allows you to pose questions with a picture to your Facebook and Twitter friends (and your friends' friends) and get quick answers and feedback.

For example, I asked why the new version of Keynote was so different from the prior version, and immediately started getting responses like this one:

Source: Jelly

The mobile interface of the app makes use of cards you can quickly swipe through to look at questions being posed. It's almost like an Instagram of questions, or the baby that photo-sharing app Instagram and question-and-answer app Quora would have. The cardification of mobile is certainly a current trend in Web design (i.e. Twitter cards and Google Now cards), and Jelly seems to seize on it.

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The app immediately reminded me of Aardvark, which allowed users to get questions answered by friends and friends of friends. Aardvark launched in 2008 and was acquired by Google in 2010, long before mobile and mobile photos were in full swing. Google shut it down a few years ago when it closed GoogleLabs. But the general notion of friends answering questions in real time holds true. Aardvark may have been an idea before its time, and mobile social photos may make Jelly's attempt the right time.

The breadth and variety of questions that can be asked with a photo and a few lines of text seems incredibly broad. The impulse to scan and respond to questions will be driven by how entertaining and targeted the questions are. For me, for example, my interests tend to be related to tech, management, stocks, eating/drinking in NYC, and child rearing. To the extent that I open the app and see questions in those areas, I think I'll keep coming back.

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The company is backed by Spark Capital and a range of other top angels, including the other Twitter founders. But more importantly, it's a very different idea and looks very different. It's highly novel and that to me is the most exciting aspect in these early days of the product.

But the bar is high: A little over a year ago, investor Chris Dixon said "10 million users is the new 1 million users" for non-transaction consumer-app penetration. Whatsapp, a new messaging app, has 400 million monthly active users. So, for Jelly to really break through it will need tens of millions of users and that is no small feat.

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—By Jon Steinberg

Jon Steinberg is the president & chief operating officer of BuzzFeed and is responsible for all business management, company operations, finance, and social advertising operations. Follow him on Twitter @jonsteinberg.

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