As a founding member of both Twitter and blogging site Medium, entrepreneur Biz Stone has already played a hugely influential role in shaping the way people interact on the internet. Now, he's hoping to put a social spin on search, and take on one of the world's largest companies in the process.
On Thursday, Stone unveiled a revamped version of Jelly, a company which bills itself as "the only search engine in the world with an attitude, an opinion, and the experience of people to back it up." Jelly allows users to anonymously ask a question in the site's search box, and get answers from other users who may have an expertise in certain fields.
"The incentive is naturally wired into human beings to help other people," Stone told CNBC this week. "People love answering things, and they especially love answering if they totally know it. "
In a world where people expect instant gratification online, waiting for an answer from Jelly's community might present a significant challenge when taking on traditional search engines like Google and Bing.
But Stone said he'd rather "wait 10 or 15 minutes for a good answer then spend the same amount of time trying to figure something out that may not be right." Traditional search engines pride themselves on delivering millions of results quickly, "but you still have to go look through them all and spend time doing all that, and those minutes add up," he said.
The big question now is how to monetize the idea to bring a human touch back to online search. Jelly could eventually have a business model similar to other search engines, but there's also room for brands to connect directly with consumers, Stone said. In an earlier iteration of Jelly, for example, Stone said home improvement retailer Lowe's took to the site to answer customer questions.
Stone said that Silicon Valley start-ups are often tasked with building a viable product first and worrying about business models later down the road. "Everyone else in the world is like 'what are you crazy, this isn't how it works, you have to say how you're making money first.' But that's not how we do it here."