Quora, a social question and answer site, has absolutely exploded over the past few months. One Quora questioner asks, “What would happen if a website based in China copied everything from Quora?” The answer: it’s called Zhihu (知乎) and we’ll soon find out.

I was recently sent a couple screenshots of Zhihu, a Chinese Q&A site that copies 99% of the Quora user interface (but it’s blue, not red!). Zhihu (知乎) means “know everything” in Chinese. It’s in internal beta testing, with IP login required, so we can’t be certain of its social mechanics yet.

The team behind Zhihu appear to be tech insiders in Beijing, just as Quora co-founder Adam d’Angelo (former Facebook CTO) is in the Silicon Valley. Zhihu.com is registered to Victor Zhou, who thoughtfully blogs about Quora on his own blog. Victor is also an editor at apple4.us, a very popular Chinese-language tech blog (it covers more than just Mac). Our source also reports that other Apple4Us editors are working on the project. From the screenshots, it looks like one of China’s top tech bloggers, Keso, is a beta user.

The quality of the initial user base is critical to such a social network, so the ”Beijing tech insider” background is a promising indicator for Zhihu. Just like Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, and Ushi.cn, the aim is to establish elite spread–high quality users who invite others in. An invitation a hot ticket for new users.

Another site that copies much of the Quora functionality, rfanti.com, seems to have missed this point. It spread quickly, but the quality of the participants and the resulting Q&As suffered. At that point, it’s difficult to recover. It’s better to focus on quality than overly rapid growth; the “tipping point” and growth acceleration will come with time, just as Quora’s has now.

Quora itself is not yet blocked in China, but will surely be so at some point, unless it decides to self-censor on “non-harmonious” topics.

The Zhihu home page copies Quora almost exactly. The notification tabs are on top, below the search, instead of on the right.

Home page

The topic interface also indicates that Zhihu will copy the system of “following” topics and answers.

The topic interface, with a follow button.

The question interface also copies Quora, again with the follow button on the top right side of the page.

Question interface

Will the Quora Model Succeed in China?

There are two main challenges for a Quora clone like Zhihu in China:

  1. User Quality - many Chinese netizens are not accustomed to contributing online. Or if they do, it’s often simplified comments and/or extremely biased opinions. And then there’s of course the problem of spam. Quora has so far attracted high-quality answers from high-quality users. Nor is this model entirely proven; as it scales Quora will also have to answer the question: “How can Quora Avoid becoming Yahoo Answers?
  2. Good Questioners – Good questions are key. It’s challenging to get users to ask without bias and prompt answers that bring professional answers. Quora has even added a little tutorial for all new users in an attempt to maintain the quality of the site. It’ll be a good new experiment on the Chinese internet.

Quora is a top source of China tech news for us at TechRice, so we’ll follow Zhihu closely. And we’ll continue to update the Quora question, “What would happen if a website based in China copied everything from Quora?

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  • http://francojtorres.wordpress.com Franco J. Torres

    Your site hasn’t made it until it has its own Chinese clone.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VNR5P2QRX5ZEZC3SX5UJXWDI7M 曹andy

      It is only a clone, but how to make money is a problem not only by AD. Maybe you could see the website http://www.salesparty.com.tw It is a business QA add business SNS.

    • Leonardovolt49

      dizzy reply

  • http://twitter.com/Kinny KRaSiVy 

    It’s not as simple as copying — Quora may not be perfect, but not as easily copied as one would think.

    Personally, I have my doubts where Chinese knock-offs are concerned. Like Weibo, for example, it may seem like a Twitter clone, but actually differing in numerous aspects (probably for good reason, but some being beyond me).

    • http://twitter.com/darrenest 刘泽昊/ LIU Hao, Darren

      agree

  • http://twitter.com/imkevinxu Kevin Xu
  • Alfred Q Yang

    It would be really interesting to see how Zhihu executes on ramping up quality users and Q&As. It seems that Chinese don’t have a tradition of asking/answering good questions. There might be a culture difference in users which Zhihu needs to think through.

    • chris Kong

      QFT, bro. quality UGCs on youtube and secondlife will arguably chance-less to happen in china.

  • Exmorning

    can you give me a invitation code of zhihu ? thanks

    • Guest

      Here you are dude:

      uwereinawrongplaceforaskinganinvitationcode

  • prcer

    我是大陆用户 请问怎么获取邀请码?

    • Tashgychan

      活跃的知乎用户会有。可以到一些geek集中的地方碰碰运气,他们有时候会发放给有兴趣的人。

      • Exmorn

        我已经有了,呵呵

        • Charhom

          can you give me a invitation code of zhihu ? my e-mail address is charhom@live.com thanks!!

  • Ssoor520

    If  you need a Zhihu’s invitation code ,Please let me know your mail address.  I have 10 invitation codes.

    ssoor520@gmail.com :)

  • nono

    我有很多知乎邀请码,要的email联系:fist84@gmail.com