Twitter co-founder launches Jelly, a social search app

The mobile app answers people's questions using the knowledge of friends

The blog for Jelly, Biz Stone's new startup.

The blog for Jelly, Biz Stone's new startup.

What's this strange object in front of me? A new app from Twitter's co-founder wants to give you the answer, by asking your friends.

On Tuesday, Biz Stone announced the launch of Jelly, his new startup that has been in stealth mode for roughly a year. The mobile app, which is available now on iOS and Android-based devices, is designed to answer people's questions using photos and their existing networks of friends.

Snap a picture with your phone, write a short caption describing the question, and post. On Tuesday morning, some users were already using it for advice questions. "Worth reading?" one person asked alongside an image of George Orwell's "1984."

Others were having more fun. "Will a small bit of this do more harm than good for my incredibly sore throat?" another asked with an image of a bottle of whiskey.

The app lets users connect it with their Facebook and Twitter accounts, so if one of your contacts sees the post and has an answer for it, the person can answer it, or forward it to one of his or her own friends.

The app aims to capitalize on the popularity of mobile smartphones and the pervasiveness of social networks. The app is also meant to personalize the search experience -- it might take more inspiration from Quora, a community-based question-and-answer site, than from Google or Bing.

The answers the app provides are meant to be more about shared knowledge than information, Jelly's founders say. "Getting answers from people is very different from retrieving information with algorithms," Jelly's team said in its announcement.

In other words, step aside, Google.

But is Jelly really all that different? Search engines today are already trying to become more social. Facebook is working on its own new search tool, called Graph Search, which is meant to answer people's questions based on information about their friends. And Microsoft's Bing search engine already incorporates data from Facebook and Twitter into its search results to give users more context.

And though it is not meant to be "social," Google offers its Goggles search tool on mobile devices, which aims to answer questions based on photos.

Jelly might be best suited for questions that are more subjective, or playful. And while the requirement to take a photo might seem to limit the range of questions the app can be asked, some people seem to be using it in pretty creative ways.

"It's been said that the best day to visit Disneyland is on Super Bowl Sunday (no lines). Does anyone know if this is actually true?" one person asked, using an image of Mickey Mouse.

Stone's clout as a Twitter co-founder could help the app. The company has also snagged a number of employees from major technology companies like Apple and Facebook. Jelly also secured a series A funding round last May, led by Spark Capital with additional investment by SV Angel.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Tags Internet-based applications and servicestwittersocial networkinginternetJellysocial mediamobilesearch enginesmobile applications

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