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.
The topic interface also indicates that Zhihu will copy the system of “following” topics and answers.
The question interface also copies Quora, again with the follow button on the top right side of the page.
Will the Quora Model Succeed in China?
There are two main challenges for a Quora clone like Zhihu in China:
- 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?“
- 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?“
tips [at] techrice [dot] com