It looks like something is definitely cooking… I’ve logged into my Facebook account earlier this morning to find this notification:
Facebook is certainly broadening the scope of their interests, and no wonder why the area of questions and answers got their attention.
First of all there is a huge demand for this service. Remember Aardvark that grew from an idea of a social question-and-answer search engine to a product in Summer of 2009 to an acquisition by Google in February of 2010 for $50 million [more here and here]? Who else in the word is best equipped for creating competition to Vark in the social space? Of course, Facebook!
Secondly, there are obvious monetization opportunities in this niche (which allow to serve extremely targeted ads to the end user). Facebook is already U.S. #1 online display ad publisher who, according to comScore’s recent report on the results of Q1 2010, is responsible for over 16% of all display ads, beating Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Fox Interactive in this competition.
With their 400+ million active members [source], and the programming talent they have, creating a powerful questions-and-answer social search engine (and doing it fast!) won’t represent a problem for Facebook.
Of course, Aardvark is not the only one on whose toes Facebook is stepping. There are also Answers.com with their 93 million global monthly visitors [source], and Ask.com with some 53 million US visitors [source]. It is going to be interesting to see what this develops into.